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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

California Jewish Community Oral History Series 

Ludvig Altman 

With an Introduction by 
Dr. Robert Kirschner 

Interviews Conducted by 
Eleanor K. Glaser 


Caroline Crawford 
in 1988 

Copyright (c) 1990 by The Regents of the University of California 
and the Trustees of the Judah L. Magnes Museum 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing 
leading participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the 
development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is 
a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an informed 
interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is transcribed, 
lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. 
The resulting manuscript is typed in final form, indexed, bound with 
photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library at 
the University of California, Berkeley, and other research collections for 
scholarly use. Because it is primary material, oral history is not intended 
to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a 
spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as 
such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable. 

******* **-*** ******* ******* ft*-*-*****-** 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between The Regents of the University of 
California, the Trustees of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, 
and Ludwig Altman dated December 9, 1988. The 
manuscript is thereby made available for research 
purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, 
Berkeley and the Judah L. Magnes Musuem. No part of the 
manuscript may be quoted for publication without the 
written permission of the Director of The Bancroft 
Library of the University of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, 
and should include identification of the specific 
passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, 
and identification of the user. The legal agreement 
with Ludwig Altman requires that he be notified of the 
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as 
follows : 

Ludwig Altman, "A Well-Tempered 
Musician's Unfinished Journey Through 
Life," an oral history conducted in 1988 
by Eleanor Glaser and Caroline Crawford, 
Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of 
California, Berkeley, 1990. 

Copy no. 

January 1990 

Photograph by Caroline Crawford 

Cataloging Information 

Altman, Ludwig (b. 1910) Musician 

A Well -Tempered Musician's Unfinished Journey Through Life. 1990, viii, 
183 pp. 

Recollections of life in Germany and the rise of Nazism; training at the State 
Academy for Church and School Music; employment as organist with the WPA 
Orchestra in San Francisco, the Temple Emanu-El, the San Francisco Symphony 
Orchestra, the Legion of Honor, the BBC, the San Francisco Pops Orchestra; 
Congregation Beth Israel; Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley; the 
Carmel Bach Festival; teaching at the University of California, Berkeley; 
reflections on the Jewish community in San Francisco; works for mechanical 
organ; original compositions for organ. 

Introduction by Robert Kirschner, Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco. 

Interviewed 1988 by Eleanor Glaser and Caroline Crawford for the California 
Jewish Community Oral History Series. The Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 


To Congregation Emanu-El 

In Memory of Rabbi Joseph Asher 

To Emmy 

There is one person who must be mentioned on every 
page. I am speaking of my Emmy, my Pumpchen. my 
Emmie , my Gutele . 

I was thirty when we met by chance. Since I tend to 
delay making up my mind I had thought that I would 
probably stay single, having gotten too old for 
married bliss. And there it was, love at first sight! 
After three weeks I proposed and my Emmy answered with 
her characteristic directness: "I want a sandwich." 

Rabbi Reichert and Cantor Rinder officiated at our 
wedding, Jan Popper was the organist, and his wife 
Betty, the vocalist, sang Beethoven's "I Love Thee." 

Dearest Emmy, thanks and thanks and please God nie 
schlechter for this union of two better halves . 

--Ludwig Altman 

Donors to the Ludwig Altman Oral History 

The Judah L. Magnes Museum and The Bancroft Library, in behalf of future 
researchers, wish to thank the following persons whose contributions made 
possible this oral history of Ludwig Altman. Special thanks to Rabbi Robert 
Kirschner, Norman Coliver, and Daniel E. Stone for their leadership. 

Mrs. Ludwig Altman 

Congregation Emanu-El 

Joseph Ehrman, III 

Lynn Fertman 

Saul Greenstein 

Sally and Mike Kahn 

Mr . Harold J . Kaufman 

Mrs. Muriel Leff 
Mr. and Mrs. Richard N. Levy 

Mrs. Robert C. Levy 
Mr . and Mrs . Raymond A . Marks 

Mr. and Mrs. Walter Newman 

Mrs. Barbara S. Rogers (Mrs. Ernest) 

James Schwabacher 

Daniel E. Stone 









Parents and Relatives 1 

Jewish Community 4 


The State Academy for Church and School Music 6 

Living Arrangements 8 

Work and Study 9 

Music on German Radio 11 

A Music Critic 13 

The Political Climate 16 


Family and Relatives 21 

Musical Experiences 26 

Mr. Altman 's Written Thoughts 27 

Relatives 27 

German School System 28 

Breslau During World War I 30 

First Thoughts About Leaving, 1933 31 
Difficulty in Obtaining U.S. Visa 32 

Stay in New York 34 
Stop in Chicago 36 


Temple Emanu-El and Assistance to New Immigrants 38 

Teaching Piano at San Bruno Settlement House 40 

Organist for Congregation Beth Israel 41 

Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley 43 

Bringing Parents from Germany and Marriage to Emmy 46 



Inducted into the Army 51 

Assigned to Army Band, Fort Mason, San Francisco 52 

Propaganda Leaflets and Other Sidelines 57 

Meeting with Thomas Mann 58 


Cantor Reuben R. Rinder 61 

Mrs. M.C. Sloss and Mrs. Marcus Koshland 63 

Relationships with Rabbis 65 



Dr. Edmund Nick 71 

Bronislaw von Pozniak 75 

Arthur Altmann: A Musical Uncle 76 

The Music and Anti-Semitism of Richard Wagner 77 

More About Bronislaw von Pozniak 78 

Musical Training and Experience in Breslau 79 



The Entrance Examination 82 

Berlin University and the Hochschule fur Musik 83 

Remembering Richard Strauss and Some Great Conductors 83 

Getting Assigned to the High Holy Days Services and 

the Synagogue 86 

Nazi Harrassment 89 

The Kulturbund 90 

Working as a Music Critic 93 

Musical Life During the Weimar Republic 95 

Decision to Leave Germany 96 


A Call from Carnegie Hall 98 

Learning English 99 

Connections in the United States 100 


Teaching Piano: "An Awful Profession" 104 

American Recital Debut: Stanford University 105 
A New Repertoire and an Experiment with Electronic Organs 106 

Introduction to Alfred Hertz and Pierre Monteux 107 

The WPA Orchestra 108 

Piano Lessons for Leon Fleischer 109 
Pierre Monteux and the French Influence: The Musical 

Community in the 1930s 110 


Working at the Temple 112 
Teaching at the University of California and a Church 

Post 114 

The Carmel Bach Festival 115 

Performing with Arthur Fiedler 118 

The Legion of Honor: Municipal Organist 120 

Performing in Europe 121 

An Important Assignment for the BBC 122 

A Triumphant Return to Germany 123 

A Discovery: Mozart and Works for Mechanical Organ 125 

Thoughts on Composing 127 


An Opportunity to Perform with the WPA Orchestra 128 

More About Alfred Hertz 130 

The Trials of a Symphony Organist 131 

Pierre Monteux: 1935-1952 134 
Playing on the Hammond Organ in the Opera House Instead 

of a Pipe Organ 138 

Enrique Jorda: 1952-1963 140 

Josef Krips: 1963-1970 144 

Seiji Ozawa: 1970-1977 147 
A Meeting with Leonard Bernstein and Playing with 

Artur Rodzinski 149 

The "Hocus-Pocus" about Conductors 150 


The Place of Music in the Jewish Service 152 

The Relationship between Cantor and Organist 153 

Cantor Rinder and the Commissioning of Works 155 

The Temple Choir 156 

Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Temples 157 

Choosing Soloists 158 


Ernest Bloch and Frederick Jacobi 160 

Darius Milhaud's Sacred Service 162 

Ben-Haim and the Psalms 164 

Cantor Portnoy 165 

Ludwig Altman's Sacred Service and Commissions 166 

Marc Lavry 168 

Funding for Composers 169 

Programming at the Temple 169 

A New Era at Temple Emanu-El: Choosing a Successor 170 


Acoustics and Remodeling 173 

Changing Trends in Organ Building 175 

More about Recitals 177 


Tape Guide 184 

Index 185 


The California Jewish Community Series is a collection of oral 
history interviews with persons who have contributed significantly to 
Jewish life and to the wider community. Sponsored by the Western Jewish 
History Center of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, the interviews have been 
produced by the Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library. 
Moses Rischin, professor of history at California State University at San 
Francisco, is advisor to the series, and Ruth Rafael is Archivist. 
Serving as an advisory committee is the board of the Western Jewish 
History Center. Present [WJHC Advisory Committee] members are: 
Chairperson, Dana Shapiro; Vice -Chairperson, Sue Rayner Warburg; William 
Brinner, Norman Coliver, Barbara Gronowski, James D. Hart, Louis H. 
Heilbron, Jane R. Lurie, Esther Reutlinger, Jacques Reutlinger, John F. 
Rothmann, Louise Sampson, and Ruth Freeman Solomon; and ex-officio 
members Seymour Fromer and Gary J. Shapiro. 

The California Jewish Community Series was inaugurated in 1967. 
During its first twenty years, former board members who have served in an 
advisory capacity include: Harold Edelstein, Cissie Geballe, James M. 
Gerstley, Douglas E. Goldman, Philip E. Lilienthal, Elinor Mandelson, 
Robert E. Sinton, Frank H. Sloss, Daniel E. Stone, Jacob H. Voorsanger, 
and Alma Lavenson Wahrhaftig. 

In the oral history process, the interviewer works closely with the 
memoirist in preliminary research and in setting up topics for 
discussion. The interviews are informal conversations which are tape 
recorded, transcribed, edited by the interviewer for continuity and 
clarity, checked and approved by the interviewee, and then final -typed. 
The resulting manuscripts, indexed and bound, are deposited in the 
library of the Western Jewish History Center, The Bancroft Library, and 
the University of California at Los Angeles. By special arrangement 
copies may be deposited in other manuscript repositories holding relevant 
collections . 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons prominent in recent California 
history. The Office, headed by Willa K. Baum, is under the 
administrative supervision of Professor James D. Hart, director of The 
Bancroft Library. 

Seymour Fromer 
Executive Director 
The Magnes Museum 

1 August 1990 
Berkeley, California 



Altman, Ludwig, A Well-Tempered Musician's Unfinished Journey Through Life. 
1990. 187 pp. 

Fleishhacker, Mortimer, and Janet Choynski (Mrs. Mortimer), Family. Business anc 
the San Francisco Community. 1975. 411 pp. 

Fromm, Alfred, Alfred Fromm: Wines. Music and Lifelong Education. 1988. 
263 pp. 

Haas, Elise Stern (Mrs. Walter, Sr.), The Appreciation of Quality. 1975. 
209 pp. 

Haas, Walter A., Sr., Civic. Philanthropic, and Business Leadership. 1975. 
162 pp. 

Hilborn, Walter S., Reflections on Legal Practice and Jewish Community 
Leadership: New York and Los Angeles. 1907-1973. 1974. 226 pp. 

Hirsch, Marcel, The Responsibilities and Rewards of Involvement. 1981. 179 pp 
Koshland, Daniel E. , Sr., The Principle of Sharing. 1971. 325 pp. 

Koshland, Lucile Heming (Mrs. Daniel E. , Sr.), Citizens Participation in 
Government. 1970. 79 pp. 

Koshland, Robert J., Volunteer Community Service in Health and Welfare. 1983 
310 pp. 

Kuhn, Marshall H. , Marshall H. Kuhn: Catalyst and Teacher: San Francisco Jewisl 
and Community Leader. 1934-1978. 1978. 364 pp. 

Magnin, Rabbi Edgar F. , Leader and Personality. 1975. 317 pp. 

Rinder, Rose (Mrs. Reuben R.), Music. Praver. and Religious Leadership: TempL 
Emanu-El. 1913-1969. 1971. 184 pp. 

Salz, Helen Arnstein (Mrs. Ansley) , Sketches of an Improbable Ninety Years. 
1975. 272 pp. 

Schnier, Jacques, A Sculptor's Odvssey. 1987. 313 pp. 

Sinton, Edgar, Jewish and Community Service in San Francisco, a Family Tradition 
1978. 223 pp. 

Stone, Sylvia L. , Lifelong Volunteer in San Francisco. 1983. 134 pp. 

Treguboff, Sanford M. , Administration of Jewish Philanthropy in San Francisco 
1988. 243 pp. 


INTRODUCTION by Dr. Robert Kirschner 

The Skinner pipe organ of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, built in 
1926, contains some fifty voices and seventy-five ranks. This 
magnificent, four-manual organ is an aesthetic and mechanical wonder. 
Aside from its pipes, valves, and wind chests, it contains literally 
thousands of moving parts. To the inexpert eye, the multitude of 
keyboard and console controls would seem to demand several musicians at 
once. Multiple memory, combination action, tremulants and concussions: 
the instrument itself is a marvel, and how much more so the organist who 
is its master. 

Ludwig Altman is its master. For half a century of Sabbaths, High 
Holydays, festivals and concert recitals, he served as Temple Emanu-El 's 
Organist and Choir Director nonpareil. His musical artistry, 
instrumental virtuosity, and technical finesse have inspired two 
generations of Reform Jewish worship in San Francisco. 

Nor have his gifts been confined to the synagogue . For over thirty 
years he performed with the San Francisco Symphony, and his recitals at 
the Legion of Honor have become a municipal tradition. His summer 
concert tours have received glowing acclaim in London, Berlin, Munich, 
Lausanne, and other major venues. Among the rare breed of world-class 
organists, Ludwig Altman is one of the elite, and among these he is, to 
my knowledge, one of the very few who are Jews. 

To portray Ludwig as a musician only is scarcely to convey the breadth 
of his talents. Working at the side of the distinguished Cantors Reuben 
Rinder and Joseph Portnoy, Ludwig was intimately acquainted with the 
commission and performance of major new works of music composed for the 
synagogue, including the Avodath Hakodesh of Ernest Bloch and the Sacred 
Service of Darius Milhaud. A noted composer in his own right, Ludwig has 
written numerous scores of sacred music for cantor, choir and organ, 
several of which have become enduring standards of the Congregation's 
liturgy. Owing to his modesty, few congregants know that Ludwig is also 
a musicologist of international reputation, having edited and published 
first editions of previously unknown organ works of Bach, Beethoven, 
Mendelssohn and Telemann. 

Very early in his career, Ludwig 's genius was evident. Upon the 
completion of courses at the State Academy for Sacred Music in Berlin, he 
was selected as the organist of the Neue Synagogue on Oranienburger- 
strasse, the largest synagogue in Germany. He was only twenty- three 
years old. Tragically the glorious history of Jewish life in Berlin was 


soon to be extinguished. But to the consolation of American Jewry, 
Ludwig Altman, together with such luminaries as Max Janowski, Herbert 
Fromm and Samuel Adler, emigrated to our shores. Their impact on the 
music of the American synagogue has been incalculable. 

Temple Emanu-El's Skinner organ has been praised for its "unobstructed 
clarity and beauty." This phrase describes Ludwig Altman' s personal 
character no less than his music. Gentle, soft-spoken, unfailingly 
gracious, Ludwig is held in the Congregation's deepest affection. 
Together with his devoted wife Emmy, he is a uniquely cherished colleague 
and friend. His sensitivity, his charm and refinement, his elegant wit - 
- these are gifts that transcend even his music. 

By his life and by his labors, Ludwig Altman has earned a permanent 
and unforgettable place in the annals of San Francisco Jewry. 

Dr. Robert Kirschner 

December 1989 

Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco 


In 1989 Ludwig Altman marked his fiftieth year as one of the Bay Area's 
most prominent musicians. During his long and remarkable career, Mr. Altman 
served as organist of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco from 1937, the year 
he left Germany to escape Nazism, until 1986. He was for thirty-three 
seasons organist with the San Francisco Symphony, performed with the Carmel 
Bach Festival for many years and in various European countries during the 
summer months for nearly a quarter century, and continues to give weekend 
recitals on the venerable 1924 Skinner organ at San Francisco's Palace of 
the Legion of Honor. He has also devoted much of his time to composing and 
editing works for organ and to music for mechanical organ, a great interest 
of his. 

Ludwig Altman was born in 1910 in Breslau, where he received his early 
musical training. From the University of Breslau, he went on to train at 
the University of Berlin and the State Academy for Church and School Music, 
supporting himself in part by reviewing musical events for Berlin newspapers 
and performing in small orchestras and synagogues. Denied his diploma by 
the Nazis, he turned to liturgical organ music and by 1936 he was appointed 
principal organist at the Neue Synagogue on Oranienburgerstrasse, Berlin, a 
highly-ornamented structure built to hold 3,000 people and the largest 
Jewish synagogue still in operation in those years. 

Because of his long involvement in and contribution to the field of 
liturgical music, Mr. Altman was selected to be interviewed for the Judah L. 
Magnes Museum's California Jewish Community Series, carried out by the 
Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library. Two staff editors 
interviewed Mr. Altman: Caroline Crawford talked to him about music and 
Eleanor Glaser emphasized his personal life and community involvement. In 
some instances, Mr. Altman covered the same topic from different 
perspectives . 

A preliminary interview was held in February, 1988, in Temple Emanu-El, 
where Mr. Altman took us behind the bimah, the altar, demonstrated the 
workings of the organ, and talked about sound adjustments that had been 
necessary after the temple was plastered inside to modify the reverberation. 
Next, he led us up several flights of stairs to his office on the temple's 
top floor, where he showed us his library of music, and where we discussed 
the topics to be covered in the interview sessions to come. 

The interviews were held in the Altman home in San Francisco's Golden 
Gate Heights District. The living room is dominated by a large Steinway 
grand piano, music, and books about music and art. On the piano is the 
first edition of Beethoven's organ works, collected and edited by Mr. 
Altman, and the score of the Sacred Service he composed for Temple Emanu-El 
in 1963. 


This intensely cultural life is shared with Emmy, his wife of nearly 
fifty years. When they met, Emmy Hausdorff was teaching at the Dominican 
School in San Rafael; she subsequently taught in the San Francisco public 
school system. She attends all her husband's performances and keeps his 
busy calendar, and their devotion to each other is obvious. During one 
interview, Mr. Altman stated, "I'm bright, but Emmy is a genius." 

Altogether Mr. Altman recorded seven interviews with us. When the 
edited transcripts were sent to him, he expanded the material substantially. 
These additions were written in a conversational tone in keeping with the 
interview format, and they are noted in the text of the memoir. His 
attention to detail and his diligence is reflective of his work habits. It 
perhaps also demonstrates Mr. Altman 1 s editorial expertise, sharpened by his 
years as a music critic in the 1930s. "...I would almost say that that was 
my strongest suit, being a music critic and music reviewer, and under normal 
conditions in Germany, I would have followed that as my career," he said. 

Also in this memoir, Ludwig Altman contrasts the educational systems of 
Germany and the United States, describes German radio programming, and 
offers insights into fellow musicians and to composers, rabbis and cantors. 

Mr. Altman has said of himself that he is an ordinary musician who was 
blessed with extreme good fortune. He also acknowledges his devotion to 
sheer hard work: "...practically seven days, day and night, nonstop." 
Speaking of his need to make a contribution, he says, "...whatever I have 
done I was always possessed by that mania, almost, that it must be an 
addition, it must be a contribution. Also when I played the organ recitals, 
I always felt, "if I cannot make a contribution, why do it at all." 

This memoir captures Mr. Altman's dedication to hard work and his 
contributions to music in San Francisco, elsewhere in California, and in 

Eleanor K. Glaser 
Caroline C. Crawford 


l-.gional Oral History Office University of California 

horn 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley , California 94720 

(Please print or write clearly) 

Your full name . .Ludwig Altaian 

Date of birth September 2. 1910 Place of birth Bres IBU 
Father's full name Eugen Altnan 

Birthplace _ East Prye sia , Germany 

Occupation businessman 

Margot Goldberg 
Mother's full name 

Birthplace _ Breslau German 

Occupation _ house wife 

Where did you grow up ? _ in Breslau 

Present community San Franei 

Education Gymnasium } Universities of Breslau and Berlin 

State Academy for Church^and School Music in 

Occupation(s) Musician 

< I < ' *> kfit C C* I/ * bCi 4 * U-L Old fa Hi I ^ 

Special interests or activities 



Altmon, Ludwig, German-American organist and 
composer; b. Breslau, Sept. 2, 1910. He studied at the 
Univ. of Breslau with Arnold Schmitz and Peter Ep 
stein; in 1929-33 attended courses of Hans Joachim 
Moser, Arnold Schering, Johannes Wolf, and Frie- 
drich Blume at the State Academy for Sacred Music 
in Berlin; also took private lessons in organ playing 
with Arthur Zubke. He remained in Berlin for three 
years after Hitler's advent to power, serving as or 
ganist at the Neue Synagoge, the largest Jewish 
synagogue still in operation (1933-36). In 1936 he 
emigrated to America; settled in San Francisco; in 
1937 became organist and choral director at Temple 
Emanu-El; from 1940 to 1973 was organist of the 
San Francisco Symph Orch.; from 1948 to 1965 he 
was also organist of the Bach Festivals in Carmel, 
Calif.; in 1952 he became Municipal Organist of San 
Francisco. In 1982 he received a doctorate honoris 
causa from the Univ. of San Francisco. He com 
posed numerous scores of sacred music, among 
them Sabbath Music for Cantor, Choir, and Organ 
(1963); The Blessing of Moses for Baritone Solo, 
Choir, and Organ (1977); several psalms for Voices 
and Organ; and works for organ solo. He further 
more edited Beethoven's organ works, Telemann's 
Suite Baroque, pieces by Ph.E. Bach for Organ 
Clock, and some organ compositions by Mendels 
sohn. As a concert organist he appeared in solo re 
citals in London, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Stutt 
gart, Frankfurt, Bern, Lausanne, -and Zurich, as 
well as in San Francisco, in programs of Baroque 
and Classical music with a generous inclusion of 
ultramodern works by contemporary composers, re 
ceiving undiluted praise in the press. 

Ludwig Altman: Family and Community 

Interviewed by Eleanor K. Glaser 


[Interview 1: February 26, 1988] \ 
Interviewer: Eleanor Glaser 

Parents and Relatives 

Glaser: Mr. Altman, I know that you were born in Germany, in Breslau. 
Would you give me the date of your birth? 

Altman: Gladly. It was September 2, 1910. 
Glaser: And the names of your parents? 

Altman: My father was Eugen, which in America is usually pronounced 

"Eugene," but it was E-u-g-e-n. The name of my mother was Margot, 

Glaser: Did you know your grandparents? 

Altman: Not the father of my mother. He died fairly young. His first name 
was Ludwig, and on that hangs a story right away, because there is 
a custom among the Jewish people that when a boy is born and his 
grandfather is dead, he gets the name of his dead grandfather. And 
so I got the name of Ludwig. If the grandfather on my father's 
side had died first, then my name would have been Nathan. But I 
must say I prefer Ludwig by far. 

Glaser: What was the family name on your mother's side? 
Altman: Goldberg. 

##This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has 
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 184. 

Glaser: Did both sides of the family live in Breslau? 

Altman: Yes. 

Glaser: How long had the family lived in Breslau? 

Altman: I don't know. I don't think terribly long. On my mother's side 
they came from the province of Posen and on my father's side from 
East Prussia. I don't know if that means anything to you, but that 
was roughly the region of Koenigsberg and Danzig was not too far 
from there. My father actually grew up in a small town, which is 
now in the Baltic states, called Merael. 

Glaser: What did your father do for a living? 

Altman: He was in business, an agent. The reason for that was a custom 
among the Jews at that time. My grandparents had three sons, my 
father was in the middle. The oldest, Arthur by name, was a 
musician, and curiously (as I have thought about it lately) I find 
that his career and activity was almost like the one I had. He was 
an organist; he was a choir leader. He was actually an opera 
conductor in Koenigsberg for a while and also a teacher of music in 
a girls' gymnasium or lycee. I have some of his compositions that 
at times I have played. They were well constructed, fine works, on 
the conservative side. He died, by the way, a victim in the Nazi 
turmoil . 

The younger brother Bruno was a very talented writer for 
newspapers, and he unfortunately perished also. He was caught by 
the Nazis in France, I think. Very sad. He was a learned man, 
like Arthur. 

The middle person, in this case my father, was always destined 
to go into business instead of a college education. 

Glaser: Did you have brothers or sisters? 

Altman: I have a sister, Vera, living in Los Angeles, who was born in June, 
1919. I never remember if it was June fourth or sixth, 1919. It 
was after the First World War. During the First World War, my 
father was imprisoned by the Russians for four or five years. He 
was absent, and after he came back was when my sister was born. At 
age sixteen she went to Palestine (Hachscherare in Eyn Charod) and 
then came to San Francisco. Here she met and married her husband, 
Rabbi Elias Levi, who died last November quite unexpectedly. 

Glaser: Tell me about your education. 


Altman: Well, I went through the regular academic course of the elite I 
was selected for higher education by the school authorities. You 
know the system in Europe is different from ours. Ours is 
democratic, where everybody gets a chance to advance to his highest 
level. In Europe that is not so, neither in countries in front of 
the Iron Curtain nor in back of it. A certain percentage of the 
population goes to schools of higher education, and the majority 
through an easier schooling system which is shorter and easier, 
requiring less academic stuff for learning. Naturally, if you had 
any brains or ambitions you went to the Gymnasium. 

I started in 1917 at the public schools and went all the way 
up to the university level. After the Matura, or final 
examination, you are entitled to go to a university of your choice 
and study anything you want. In my case it was definitely music. 
That was a trend that came instantly to the fore while I was 
growing up and thus I went from 1917 to 1933 through the entire 
German educational system. Just as I was beginning to write my 
dissertation for the doctorate, the Nazis took over Germany and my 
education ceased. 

Glaser: Let's go back and talk about your education in Breslau. 

Altman: Fine. Well, I started, in 1917, what was then called the 

Vorschule , which means preschool. I was just six or seven years 
old, and then after three years I went to the regular Gymnasium. 
After that I went to the University of Breslau studying musicology. 
At the same time I took piano lessons from excellent teachers. 

Glaser: How old were you when you started your piano lessons? 

Altman: About nine years old. 

Glaser: Did you have a Jewish education as well as the music lessons? 

Altman: Yes, and that was also different from here. In Europe you got your 
religious education in school. One of the rabbis would come 
regularly (it was like a regular school lesson) to school at 
certain hours and all of the religious clergy then would come at 
the same time and go to their respective classes. It is different 
over there. Here the teacher stays in one class all the time and 
the pupils come to his room. In Germany at that time the teachers 
came to you. The rabbi taught the Jewish kids and the priest and 
the pastor taught the Catholic and the Lutheran students. 

Glaser: How many hours of that education did you have each week? 

Altman: Well, it was six days a week, from about eight o'clock in the 
morning to two o'clock in the afternoon. On Saturday it was a 
little shorter, let's say from eight to twelve. 

Glaser: Did you have Jewish education every day? 

Altman: No. The rabbis came only once or twice a week. But if you wanted 
to be a bar mitzvah you know what that is? which I was, then you 
had to pass an examination. You had to read from the Torah, you 
had to know some Hebrew, you had to know the Decalogue, the Ten 
Commandments, and things like that. 

I had my bar mitzvah in 1923, a very sad period in our lives, 
because of the lost war. There was great poverty and awful infla 
tion. Really, it was almost unbelievable. You know, you bought a 
piece of bread in the morning for a million marks. In the after 
noon the same bread cost you two million marks. It was so bad that 
people instantly bought up anything, no matter what. I still 
remember that because I collected stamps at the time, and I was 
very much aware of inflation. 

In 1923, there was all of a sudden a complete reversal, and 
times improved suddenly. You in the United States had a wonderful 
time until 1928 when you had the stock market crash. Then every 
thing collapsed and brought in the bums like Hitler. But in 1923 
there was Hjalmar Schacht, and he reversed the whole monetary 
system. All of a sudden a billion was one mark and we had a normal 

Glaser: Did he devalue the mark? 

Altman: I don't know what he did; I still wouldn't understand it today. We 
then had good times for about five years. It was marvelous. But 
all over the world here you had Hoover and Coolidge before him. 

Jewish Community 

Glaser: Tell me about the Jewish community in Breslau. 

Altman: This was the third largest community in Germany. The figures were 
roughly like this: Berlin had about 172,000 and the second was 
Frankfurt am Main, which had about 27,000. In Breslau there were 
about 23,000. 

Glaser: What was the total population of Breslau then? 
Altman: About 650,000. 

Glaser: Did Jews tend to live within one area or were they integrated 
within the city? 

Altman: Yes, the latter. In the first place, at that time we had few 

private homes, and those were only for the wealthy. There were not 
enough of those for a whole district. Breslau Jewry was small in 
numbers. In Berlin, with its large Jewish population, things were 
different, of course. 

Breslau wasn't large, and we walked. We were used to walking 
great distances. Also public transportation covered the entire 
city and was reliable. 

Glaser: Did your family attend the synagogue? 

Altman: No, hardly ever. I uncomfortably have to say that the one and only 
family member who went to temple regularly was my grandmother 
Lucie, my mother's mother. 

That, incidentally, is the way it is in Europe today. If you 
go to a religious service, Jewish or Christian, you find attendance 
is sparse. What draws now is, curiously, religious music, particu 
larly organ recitals. Very big. Like here, often the organist 
outpulls the minister attendance-wise. [laughs] Sometimes there 
is a conflict, and the organist has to be diplomatic, not to offend 
his clergy. 


The State Academy for Church and School Music 

Altman: My mother, particularly, was very anxious for me not to stay in 

Breslau because there was really nothing to look forward to after I 
passed the Gymnasium, the Abitur . And so, after studying three 
months in Breslau at the university that's the Institute for 
Musicology it was arranged that I should go to Berlin with its 
much larger musical field and greater opportunity. And I would 
study at the University of Berlin, which of course held a tremendous 
prestige, and at the State Academy for Church and School Music, 
also in Berlin, called Berlin Charlottenburg. 

Have you heard of the name Charlottenburg? 
Glaser: Yes, I've seen the palace. 

Altman: Exactly. Then you have seen where my alma mater was. 
Glaser: Is that where the school was? 

Altman: Yes. You know there was a center part, and then if you went to the 
right that was my school, the State Academy. Not now, anymore. On 
the left side, you went into the chapel. 

Glaser: You mean it was actually within this do you call Charlottenburg a 

Altman: Schloss, yes. 

Glaser: Oh, I didn't realize that was a school. 

Altman: At that time, in the 1920s and '30s, yes. That's where I studied. 
That's where they taught all the applied musical subjects like 
singing, choir conducting, organ, piano, et cetera. Theory, 
composition. Classes were all on the level floor. The most 
valuable instrument was the organ in the "Koenigin Louise Kapelle," 
also called the "Eosander Kapelle." It housed a very famous organ 
built by Arp Sch'nitger shortly after 1700. I forget the exact 
date. But anyway, it was a very historically-important organ. And 
there the lessons took place. 

Breslau had no institute for the training of music teachers in 
the public schools but Berlin did. I went there in January, 1929, 
to try to pass the entrance exams of the State Academy for Church 
and School Music. Fortunately, I passed and was accepted for the 
Fall semester of 1930. 

The director of the school was Hans Joachim Moser, a fabulous 
musician. He knew everything about everything. With the greatest 
ease and rapidity he could and did write on any conceivable subject 
in music. His memory was proverbial. At the outset Moser told us 
that these would have to be on a competitive basis since there were 
only thirty places open for which over 160 had applied. The exams 
were to be taken on three consecutive days at the end of which the 
winners were to be announced. We were to be tested in organ and 
piano playing, in music history and theory, modulation, in ear 
training and dictation in realizing a figured bass, important in 
Bach playing, and so on. I must have done well in all of this, to 
compensate in part for my bad singing. 

With some amusement I remember how the vocal teacher to whom I 
was assigned always tried to ditch me when the new semester came 
around, considering me a hopeless case vocally. Since I liked and 
wished to stay with her, I asked her once why she singled me out as 
the one she wanted to drop out of her class. She, wanting to spare 
my feelings, gave as her excuse that my name came up first, 
beginning with an "A." I had nerve enough to point out that she 
might very well start the alphabet from the other end, instead of 
the "A", to keep me as her student. 

To go back to the entrance exams: each and every one of the 
160 applicants was interviewed by Moser, who wanted to get a 
general idea of the students' mentality, background, and 

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the entrance examination took 
place. Late on Saturday Director Moser appeared, complimented us 
for the generally high level of scoring, regretted that only a 
small percentage could be admitted and then read the names of the 


Altman: lucky ones. As it happened there was another fellow by the same 

name as mine and you can imagine how rutschy (anxious) I was until 
the end when I rushed up to Moser asking which Altman was the 
chosen one. Rutschy, by the way, I made up. [laughs] 

The Academy was concerned primarily with the practical aspects 
of music, like how to teach classes, how to teach a community a new 
song or a choral piece. The instruction included advanced organ, 
cembalo, piano, voice training, counterpoint, some composing, a 
great deal of realisation of the so-called "Figured Bass"; quite a 
melange as you can see. 

Glaser: Where did the university come in? 

Altman: That was well coordinated time-wise. The famous University of 
Berlin was Unter den Linden, easily reached by the so-called 
Ringbahn (elevated train). There we got to study music history, 
and all of the scholarly apparatus for deciphering old music with 
all its various notational systems. 

Living Arrangements 

Glaser: How did you go about finding yourself a place to live while you 
were in school in Berlin? 

Altman: Luckily, that was no problem because I had lots of relatives in 
Berlin. My grandmother, to give you right away an idea, from my 
mother's side was number seventeen of eighteen children. So you 
can imagine there were quite a few of her brothers and sisters in 
Berlin, and I always had a free meal (so-called Mittagbrot) on 
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. My Aunt Rosa invited me for every 
Friday and Sunday and my Aunt Johanna for every Saturday. 

Glaser: Did you live with one of them? 

Altman: No, that I didn't do. I had always a rented room. In Germany they 
call it a Moebliertes Zimmer, a furnished room with breakfast. It 
didn't have a private bath. There were always very funny charac 
ters with whom one lived. I lived first with a Herr Cohen in a 
home where everybody was a little bit crazy. The Jewish word is 
mishuga. [laughs] But Mr. Cohen had a piano, and that was very 
important to me. I could only stay with a landlord who had a piano 
on which I was permitted to play at any time. I had that with Herr 
Cohen. He was such a fine human being whom I remember with 

Altman: affection. He went the way of so many Jews, he and his lady 

friend. I can still see him, a little guy, who told the funniest 
jokes and stories. The poor devil, he also went like the others. 

Glaser: Was this in the Charlottenburg area? 
Altman: Yes. 

Glaser: Did your parents have any financial difficulty in sending you to 
the university? 

Altman: Yes. Actually, I could not depend on them for monetary support. 
They were not in a position to do this. Don't forget that these 
were the Depression years. 

Glaser: How did you finance your education? 

Altman: I was always lucky. It is a strange thing to say, but I was poor 
for so many years, yet I always had enough money. I know it is a 

Glaser: Did you work while going to school? Did you have time for that? 

Altman: Yes. Oh, there was nothing I could not do. I could go from 
morning 'till night every day. I gave piano lessons; I gave 
theory lessons; I accompanied singers, various kinds. I had 
unbelievable lucky breaks. 

Work and Study 

Altman: Professor Gatz conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra four or 
five times a season in his capacity as the Director of the Bruckner 
Society of Berlin. This was an important organization of special 
appeal to Bruckner lovers and to Austrians living in Berlin in 
exile, if you want to call it that. Outside of Bruckner, whose 
music was not yet fully appreciated, the programs featured other 
composers, like Richard Strauss, early Schonberg, et cetera. 

Repeatedly there were parts for celesta or harmonium in one or 
two selections, not enough to hire a player who would have to be 
paid full time. And so Professor Felix Gatz asked me if I wanted 
to do these parts. Would I? Imagine, sitting on the stage of the 
Berlin Philharmonic Hall, along with all these world-renowned 
musicians! I remember especially the "Ariadne auf Naxos" excerpts 
which has an important harmonium part and some music by one Joseph 
Marx, not too well known outside his native Vienna. 


Altman: I got to play on the organ or on the harmonium in Berlin's 

Philharmonic Hall just the few times under Gatz, plus in September 
1934, when I played for the Judische Gemeinde services. By the 
way, Professor Gatz left Germany in time, 1934, settling in New 
Jersey where he became a professor at Duquesne University. His 
specialty was Music Aesthetics, and he wanted me during our Berlin 
days to write my dissertation on some old French treatise of then 
unknown origin. I should also have mentioned that I got to know 
Professor Gatz through a strong recommendation of a mutual musical 
friend in Breslau. Gatz then heard me perform and evidently liked 
what he heard. 

So here I was at nineteen or twenty to go as the emissary of 
the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to where the harmoniums were 
rented. I never liked the instrument, but to sit in Berlin 
Philharmonic Hall with that orchestra, it was just unbelievable; it 
was just fabulous. I had to pick the harmonium at an agency, and 
you can imagine that when I appeared there, practically a kid, they 
would all kowtow to me because I was sent from the Berlin 
Philharmonic, the orchestra of Furtwangler. 

Glaser: How could you afford the expensive cultural events of Berlin? 

Altman: Studying at the Academy of Church and School Music, we had a small 
loge at the second level of the State Opera, right over the 
orchestra pit, and every Monday morning we could buy the tickets 
for eighteen pfennigs. And there, right in front, would always be 
Ludwig Altman to buy tickets. I heard everything at the State 
Opera Unter den Linden for that amount. And I would constantly 
attend Berlin Philharmonic Hall concerts. I would always have 
standing room because it was the cheapest. As soon as the doors 
would open we would all sprint to rush to the front where we had 
good standing space. Oh, I still see myself. Then we would watch 
to see if some seat was unoccupied, and after intermission we would 
sneak up to that seat and sit down. We would always run up on the 
left side to get standing room where we could watch the orchestra 
and the conductor. That meant more than the convenience of 

Glaser: There was a great deal going on culturally in Berlin in those 

Altman: Oh, yes. Berlin at that time was the mecca of music; there was no 
doubt about that. I could show you some of those books I have 
about the cultural life of Berlin. There was never anything like 
it. Maybe London and New York, possibly. 

Glaser: This was still under the Weimar Republic? 


Altman: Absolutely. As soon as that was over the Nazis came in and the 
"happy days" were over. 

Glaser: Wasn't Berlin always considered a bohemian city? 
Altman: Munich more in that line. 

Music on German Radio 

Glaser: Tell me more about the relationship of the students and professors 
at the Academy. 

Altman: Well, I had no problems on that score, since I am by nature easy 
going, and respectful towards others. When Hitler got in at the 
beginning of 1933 and I had to leave the Academy and the 
University, I asked for a statement from my various teachers and 
they invariably commented on my good character, disposition and 
"modesty." When, four years later, I left Germany altogether I 
received similar statements from my Jewish employers, the Judische 
Gemeinde and the C.V. Zeitung. Combine all this with my work as a 
talented musician and you got the proverbial "good boy." 

I got along with them all, Director Moser and my teachers. 
One of them especially who had a personal connection to the big 
shots of the Berlin Radio complex on Masuren Alice. He gave 
lectures on musical themes frequently and he used me as pianist for 
playing the musical illustrations. This was a godsend for me at 
the time because my other musical and financial rewards were not 
great. In our U.S. also radio work is sparse, not always featuring 
the finest fare, nor is it secure. We have no "live" performances 
except occasionally and mostly in New York. 

How different, how very, very different things were and are in 
Europe! There the radio station might be compared to a cultural 
center. The government runs the complex, financed through a 
monthly fee of a few Marks for every outlet you have purchased. 
Larger countries like France, Germany, Italy, et cetera are divided 
into so many radio and now also TV districts and these districts 
are then reasonably independent on their own, financed as they are 
through this collection of money which depends on the number of 
radios and now also of TV, which the individual household may have. 

West Germany, for example, has about a dozen such districts 
and these are so affluent that each one maintains a full strength 
symphony orchestra, a large professional chorus, able to sight read 
the most modern atonal scores, a theatrical ensemble, recitators, 
lecturers, et cetera, et cetera. There are funds available to 
engage outside artists freely. 


Glaser: Then there should be a greater desire to be connected with such a 
vital organization? 

Altman: Indeed there was and is and I dwelled on the subject in order to 
give the general background which affected so many others along 
myself. So this professor getting me jobs on the radio fulfilled 
ambitions and needs. The competition for radio engagements was 
always fierce even among the most prominent musicians and artists. 
Characteristically, it was one of Hitler's first acts to kick all 
Jews out of all radio work. Verboten! 

If you had a chance to pick employment between the Berlin 
Philharmonic and the radio orchestra called the Rias and if you 
were after glory, you would choose to become a member of the Berlin 
Philharmonic. But if you were more interested in out-of-the-way 
things you like to perform, and even getting more money, then the 
Rias would be your choice. I just mention that in order to make it 
plain how that works. I don't know how many districts West Germany 
is divided into; it's around eight or nine or ten, but you can see 
how the system is different. 

In order to give this, my oral history, some further depth let 
me compare the European with the American system. 

The American one is limited by contrast. It's run by and 
through private enterprise, mostly as a part of various networks, 
occasionally on a local basis. Support of some kind is given to 
so-called public service stations like in San Francisco to our 
station KKHI or Channel Nine. We have numberless stations it 
seems, by necessity small because of their very number lessness. 
Live presentations are rare as are outside live performances. 

In Europe the radio as well as the TV are government run; 
there is no competition, exceptions being the BBC in London and 
some others. The fact that the broadcasters do not have to spend 
any amount on competing with each other and can collect vast sums 
of money by taxing the consumer for having his radio(s) makes it 
possible to establish veritable cultural centers. The total income 
is divided on a percentage basis between the various departments 
like music, drama, entertainment, lectures, you name it. 

To stick to our concern, music, there we have subdivisions: a 
full-fledged symphony orchestra with its own conductor, chamber 
music ensembles, dance orchestras. Add further vocal ensembles, 
superb choruses of all sizes and numbers. These stations can 
afford to mount whole operas using their own musical resources 

Glaser: After Hitler you were asked to play for the German radio? 


Altman: Yes, in 1964. My wife and I were officially invited by the Bonn 
Government to come and I was engaged to play organ recitals in 
various churches, the most prestigious one being the Kaiser Wilhelm 
Gedachtnis Kirche in Berlin. A picture of this church is in every 
picture book of Berlin, usually on the front page. I am sure you 
have seen it. The ruins were left standing as an everlasting 
memorial. My recital was advertised all over town, full program of 
Bach, American music and Mendelssohn. The reception was moving for 
Emmy and myself. Four of my old teachers came, including Professor 
Moser and the entire press sent their music critics, about ten, who 
had favorable things to say. The church was completely full and 
they ran out of programs. What a day! 

On the same visit I was asked by the Berlin Radio (RIAS) to 
prepare a lecture on any subject of my choice. I decided to speak 
on "Life of a local organist in the United States." I wanted to 
bring out the difference between the fortunes of the so-called 
stars with the circumstances of a more or less typical average 
musician, using my own specialty as an organist as the starting 
point. I had to turn in my paper some two or three months in 
advance. In arriving at the station I was on easy street, indeed. 
I did not have to read my essay myself if I did not want to. They 
have several people there whose only job was to read the various 
lectures accepted for being broadcast. Even the pay schedule was 
special, one-half of the fee paid with no deductions upon accept 
ance, the other half at the time of the broadcast. 

Glaser: Could one draw any conclusions from your talk? 

Altman: I hope one could. It has been my contention for quite a few years 
that our musical standards in the U.S. have risen to such a degree 
that in performance at all levels, in research and organization we 
are ahead of the class even on the international scene, except in 

The dearth of repertoire in composition is unfortunately a 
universal malaise. Where are the great composers? 

A Music Critic 

Glaser: Outside Jewish liturgical music, did you have any other musical 






Yes. Here I have to interject something of more general interest, 
namely the situation of a music critic in Germany as compared with 
one in the United States. In Germany and other countries in 
Europe, the large newspapers and magazines employ quite a few 
writers but only on a part-time basis. Your editor would send you 
to such or such an event, tell you about how many lines you were to 
provide, and your fee depended on the number of lines you would 
deliver. Like so many other things in life you have to take this 
information with a grain of salt. You can imagine how disappointed 
and surprised I was when I visited our fine local music critics, 
Mr. Frankenstein and Mr. Fried, who told me that they were on full 
time assignment but that there was no provision for outsiders to 
have their work published or paid for. 

How did you get started as a music critic in Germany? 

I got the idea to utilize the central location of my big and 
culturally important city, Berlin, to try to become a correspondent 
for the out-of-town press. Among many other subjects to write 
about I thought that a survey of a season's activity would always 
be of interest. This would not make for a grandiose income but 
could be a way of one's platschchke through life. 

Platschchke through life? 
Yes, I made it up. [laughs] 

Finally, I succeeded in getting into personal contact with the 
man at the helm of the department of the out-of-town press. If 
memory is correct, it was Hans Goslar. His territory was the State 
of Prussia. 

Could you use one article for many different places? 

Not exactly, no. But one could write up several versions of the 
same event. Times have changed and today the systems are much more 
alike, the European and the American workings in the newspaper 
world. Take as an example the situation at the San Francisco 
Chronicle; three musicians are supposed to cover the cultural 
field, namely music, dance, and related things, plus articles on 
basic problems and reviews of records, books, et cetera. But the 
magnitude of range and quantity of material is so overwhelming that 
outside correspondents are used all over the place. 

The three local musicians referred to are, of course, Mr. 
Robert Commanday, who is like a senior critic and who has been a 
great help to me (and many, many others) in following my musical 
interests and reviewing my recitals so consistently. Of Joshua 
Kosman I heard, or rather read, first when I read in Cum Notis 
Variorum that he is working on his dissertation. If so, then he 
has undertaken an heroic ordeal since a doctorate from the Music 


Altman: Department at Cal in Berkeley is hard to get. To round out the 
trio, Marilyn Tucker has added through versatility and an often 
sunny disposition. I don't think that she has ever reviewed a 
concert of mine, this was always territory for Bob Commanday or Mr. 
Tircuit, who also liked my programs with all their novelties: 
Schoenberg, Cage, Stockhausen, Copland, Aribert Reimann, Poulenc, et 



Al tman : 



I sincerely believe, nay, I am convinced that Europeans have 
the wrong idea in judging through comparing our and their financial 
and cultural strengths. We are not as rich as we and they think we 
are, but culturally we are rich indeed. Also I am convinced we are 
more culturally advanced today than the Europeans are. 

How long did you continue as a music critic? 
your university years? 

Was this all during 

Yes, it was. What triggered the whole thing was that there was an 
article in the best musical journal with which I disagreed, and so 
I sent my comment to the editor in which I took issue with yet 
another contribution they had published. I think it was on the 
treatment of dissonance in "old music." I am anxious to bring up 
the subject of the comparative ease of being a free-lancer in 
everything cultural even in times of Depression. The need for new 
and provocative material was so large. I was still going to school 
then; I was not even out of high school I was maybe eighteen or 
nineteen years old and my article was instantly accepted and 

I should have mentioned that the European dailies, weeklies, 
et cetera, had a special name for all non-political, non-commercial 
articles: Feuilleton. It was called "Feuilleton unter den stricht." 
It was beneath the line. There was a strong line, and beneath it 
was this entertainment section of the newspapers. It had to be 
replenished constantly because they consumed such vast numbers of 
things, like poetry, stories to be continued. 

This was an entertainment supplement to the newspaper? 

You could call it that. And it is still so today. I remember what 
Mr. Fried said to me: "Even if I could use your articles, because 
I like them, I could never pay you anything because there is no 
budget for that." There is over there, and while it's small by 
comparison it exists. 

That was a very nice way for you to supplement your earnings from 
your other activities. 

Yes. Ultimately it was my craving for any expression, participa 
tion, and outlet which mattered, from childhood 'till today, as 
long as it was in music. 


Altman: Luckily owners and editors liked my work well enough to use me as a 
reviewer. With some regularity they would mail me books, scores, 
et cetera, to review always with suggesting the number of lines 

The main Berlin newspaper was the Berlin Tageblatt. The main 
music critic was Alfred Einstein; he was a musicologist of the 
first order. He wrote a three-volume book on the madrigal. His 
Mozart biography is considered a classic, as is his edition of 
Kochel's catalogue of the works of Mozart. Add to this Einstein's 
edition of Musik lexikon of Riemann you get an idea of the immense 
scope of his contribution. 

And by no means was Einstein the only German-Jewish musician 
reflecting honor, distinction, and glory on the country of his 
birth. There was Fritz Stieds of the City Opera of Berlin, Otto 
Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Joseph Rosenstock, William Steinberg and 
many others. We speak with horror of the atrocities of the Nazi 
bums; we should not forget the idiocy in depriving themselves of 
many of Germany's finest citizens. All these wonderful men had to 
leave at the risk of their lives, with nothing but what they could 
carry, plus ten dollars, the sum a grateful German nation allowed 
them to take out. How did these musicians reestablish their 

The Political Climate 

Glaser: When you were in Berlin, things were not only in cultural ferment, 
but also politically. Would you tell me about that? 

Altman: Yes; it would also give the general background of and the situation 
of the Berlin Jews. The danger in talking about it is that I have 
to generalize too greatly, so what I am remembering has to be 
accepted with the proverbial grain of salt. The Germans have the 
reputation of being law-abiding and to love to obey clear, simple 
orders. In my personal experience I found that anti-Semitism has 
to be ordered and consistently nourished by orders from a top 
hierarchy to be effective in persecuting Jews. Up to the moment 
that Hitler was given total power, the general situation and outlook 
was bad, bad but not hopeless. Hindsight, as former President 
Truman told us, is easy, as it is easy to criticize the leaders of 
Berlin Jewry for waiting too long before urgently urging us to 
leave the country. 

I have always liked to describe the first years of the Nazi 
regime by comparing them with an avalanche: an avalanche can be 
stopped in its beginning. The later this is done, the harder it 
gets and after a certain point, stopping is altogether impossible. 


Altman: An even better comparison: cancer the earlier detection the more 
successful treatment later detection, less effective, less chance 
of success, occasional remission (fool's paradise), terminal. 

To come back to Alfred Einstein as the prototype for so many 
outstanding emigres: Born in 1880, from 1927-33 in Berlin, 
leaving for several other European countries, finally deciding to 
move to the U.S.A., arriving in New York in January 1939. No 
money, no job, but his musical excellence and his reputation and 
references get him a professorship at Smith College in August 1939. 
He rises quickly as lecturer for Yale, Princeton, you name it. 
U.C. Berkeley invites him to give lectures for the summer of 1950. 
Coming by car, he has a heart attack in Oklahoma City, which nails 
him down for two months. Finally arriving in Berkeley, he settled 
in El Cerrito where he died in 1953. 

In Germany the stupidity, cruelty, isolating non-Aryans (Jews) 
from Aryans went on. I mention silly new regulations: If a Jewish 
household employed an Aryan female, that person had to be forty- 
five years old or older, so that no Jew would lust after her. Or 
the edict that a non-Aryan could no longer sit on a park bench, or 
later one could not use public transportation or had to wear a 
yellow star with the identifying Jude (Jew) visible. 

Luckily I was spared these indignities since I left Germany 
around December 25, 1936. As I announced my leaving, several of 
these Jewish leaders warned me, predicting that I would not find 
work in the U.S.A., where I was unknown. Eliezer Ehrenreich, the 
authority in placing and hiring rabbis, cantors, choir personnel 
and organists, liked my work and was the one who put me on the 
organ of the Neue Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse during my last 
year in Berlin. When I went up to his office, telling him that I 
was leaving the country, he told me that this very afternoon the 
board of directors of the Judische Gemeinde was meeting and that on 
the agenda was to appoint me permanent organist of the Neue 
Synagogue for life. Did I under those conditions still want to 
leave? I stood there, realizing that this was a Sternstueck 
(turning point) in my life, a decision of greatest consequence. 
Silently I asked myself if I could visualize my playing the organ 
thirty years hence. As I could not see this likely, I thought that 
it was better to leave while I was young (twenty-six). I thanked 
Mr. Ehrenreich sincerely and will always remember him. He was 
murdered in Ravensbruck. 

Now, by and large the Berliners were not the worst among the 
Nazi people. There was the very fresh and refreshing dialect a 
very prosaic people. Of course, to generalize is always 
superficial and misleading. But, by and large, I think we can 
generalize a little. Therefore, Hitler had it harder in Berlin 
than in many other places of the country. I personally was never 


Altman: attacked in Berlin and I lived four years there. I was supposedly 
not Jewishly looking, if there is any such foolish thing. So I 
went through town unbothered, I would almost say. 

In the beginning, there was another strange trait among the 
German people. They are so law-abiding that they do also the bad 
things only if they are told to do so. In those first four years, 
whenever Hitler shut up for a while, the Germans instantly reverted 
again to be together with the Jews. They would go to the Jewish 
doctors, maybe go the back steps or after it got dark. But they 
would go. There would be such a rapprochement that Hitler or 
Goebbels (who was then the worst) would have to start a new 
campaign to alienate the Jews from the Germans and the Germans from 
the Jews. 

Glaser: You were saying that you had Mittagbrot with two of your aunts. 

Altman: Yes. We called that midday bread. One aunt was Tante Rosa 

Jacobsohn, and one was Tante Johanna, who was the youngest sister 
of my grandmother. She was number eighteen and my grandmother was 
number seventeen. [pauses to get a book from shelf inscribed in 
German, "To my dear nephew, Rosa Jacobsohn, 1927"] 

Glaser: Did the two women live together? 

Altman: No. Tante Johanna was by far more affluent than Tante Rosa, and 
there was actually almost enmity between the two. That was an 
unfortunate characteristic of families in Europe: that they don't 
care for each other and criticize each other. 

Glaser: Tell me more about what was happening in politics in the 1930s. 

Altman: Well, the most startling thing happened in 1932. I wish that what 
I'm saying now would become a little more known and become a little 
accepted, because it is of great, great importance, in my opinion, 
in the evaluation of the time which brought Hitler to the fore. 
In 1932, the Hitler party, the National Socialistische Deutsche 
Arbeiter Partei (terrible name) was on the downgrade. What 
happened was that the Nazis in the twenties created a lot of noise 
and fighting spirit. But they were not really successful because 
they never accomplished anything. They cost a great deal of money, 
which came from the industry, particularly the war industry of 
Germany, who were always scared of the Bolsheviks the Russians. 
They thought to use Hitler to antagonize the Communists enough and 
do away with the threat from the Communists in Germany there were 
quite a few. I think about six million voted Communist and were in 
the Communist Party. 


Altman: The Reichstag, which is the same as our Congress, needed 60,000 
votes to get one candidate into the Reichstag. But they finally 
thought less and less of Hitler because nothing happened. In 1932 
it showed for the first time that the Nazis, who had gradually 
gained numbers in the Reichstag through the various times they had 
to vote, had less votes than the time before. In other words, the 
fear of the Nazis being invincible evaporated in 1932. 

To give you a personal example, which could be generalized I'm 
sure: the European manner is to have your newspaper, all pages, 
displayed on the streets. There was a box there with glass in the 
front, and the people used to stand there and read the paper so 
they wouldn't have to buy it. And there were the terrible Nazi, 
anti-Semitic papers, dreadful, and they would admire what the Nazis 
had to say, because they were going up all the time in membership 
and prominence. 

But in 1932, that reversed. That was the time when I would go 
around the streets of Berlin, stand with the people there, and I 
would make derogatory remarks about the Nazis. I would say, "Oh, 
Herr Hitler, he is a stupid ass. He is now done in. Because once 
it starts going down there is no way of telling how far down it 
will be." And that was accepted. People didn't kill me, or attack 
me. I could not have dared to say that a year earlier. 

It is absolutely correct that Hitler did not have to become 
the chancellor and eventually the all-powerful dictator. He could 
have been avoided, and very few people adhere to that story. I am 
one of those, but the overwhelming majority will violently 
disagree. They will say, "No, but he had to come." But it is not 

My general opinion about politics is that an immense amount is 
not premeditated. It is happenstance that could have just as well 
turned the other way. What the Nazis did against the Jewish people 
in general, all those horrible things, they did always under 
orders. It wasn't like as if a single Nazi in seeing a Jewish 
person on the street would automatically beat him up. That was not 
the way it happened. Even the worst atrocities were committed by 
order. Hence the endless sequence of regulations, Verbote and 
Gebote, all aimed to isolate and strangulate us. 

When Hitler came to power on January 30 of 1933, I was at a 
concert of the Berlin Philharmonic with Otto Klemperer conducting, 
and when I returned by elevated train to where I lived I heard 
uncontrolled yelling. It just came over the radio that Hitler had 
been empowered by the President of the Republic, Paul von 
Hindenburg, to lead the country as its chancellor. By the way, 
Hindenburg was a decent man, only so old that he didn't know from 
straight up anymore. He detested Hitler, who was only a corporal 
in the First World War, and not a nobleman. The pressure to 


Altman: appoint Hitler top ruler came from Hindenburg's son and from Franz 
von Papen, the vice-president, and the state secretary by the name 
of Meissner. A Mr. Meissner from the cabinet also influenced 
Hindenburg to call on Hitler. 

So the old man fell for that scheme, and on January 30, 1933, 
Hitler became chancellor and was sworn to the constitution of the 
Weimar Republic, which by the way is a masterpiece. There was a 
big ceremony. You know Hitler was a Catholic. My theory is and 
always was that we could have been spared the whole agony. The 
whole world could have been spared all the agony if only it wasn't 
for that foolish, stupid action. 

Glaser: What was the impact of Hitler's rise on your university studies? 

Altman: Oh, I didn't finish it. I was kicked out, and they used the 
tactic I passed part of my final examination in '33 in 
Germanistic, meaning in German languages. I passed it magna cum 
laude, and the reason was that I knew the subject quite well, and 
the professor who examined me was a decent man. There were many 
decent Germans at that time, and in order to make it better for me, 
he had me come to his home. I can still see myself sitting on a 
beautiful balcony, where nobody bothered me, and I took the 
examination. The name of the professor is Huebner. 

As I mentioned before, in Germany all was done Gebot 
(commandment) or Verbot (prohibition), so also here in my small 
case. Legally one had to re-register before a deadline. I, with 
many others, could not do so because the Nazi bureaucrats 
deliberately did not return my registration folder. 

Glaser: And that caused you to be expelled from school? You could not re 
register for the next semester? 

Altman: You are right. 



[Interview 2: April 11, 1988] ## 

Family and Relatives 

Glaser : 



Al tman : 

Al tman : 

We need to have more information, Mr. Altman, on your early life in 
Breslau. You mentioned that your father was an agent, but you 
didn't go into any details about what he did. 

Well, my life in Breslau, where I was born September 2, 1910, was 
actually also not a very easy life. It was a time when the old 
empire of Germany was put to the test, or put itself to the test, 
in the first World War which began in 1914. And it actually was 
the introduction to very many very unhappy experiences in Europe 
and, perhaps, in the whole world. And our lives, like the lives of 
everybody else in Germany, were also disturbed and not altogether 
happy. So when I look back to Breslau, it is always with a certain 
aura, a certain feeling, of something that was rather sad and not 
very progressive and not particularly bright and light. 

My father was an agent in textiles, particularly "Pumpchen, 
[calls his wife], what is called Hampf? What is it in German?" 


Yes, he was a buyer of hemp in Russia, and sold it in Germany. I 
don't know any details or any particulars, but that is what I 

Does that mean that he was away from home a great deal, traveling? 

Yes. Particularly in 1914. He was in Russia buying hemp, and when 
the war broke out he was caught in Russia and was kept there as a 
civil prisoner for about four years until 1918. And as soon as the 
war ended, he came home, strangely enough on my birthday. He had 
the idea and the great wish to be home on September second because 


Altman: of the birthday of mine the eighth birthday and he achieved that. 
So it was a rather happy coincidence. Unfortunately f the general 
picture was not as joyful. The end of the war found Austria and 
Germany truncated. The province of Silesia, for instance, of which 
Breslau was the capitol, was turned over to Poland in part. Before 
the partition it was rather prosperous because of its central 
location in Europe. Austria suffered even more. 

Glaser: Wasn't it important because it was at the confluence of two rivers? 

Altman: Actually, yes. The main river of Breslau was the Oder, a very wide 
stream with a very strong current. But you know, I was such a good 
swimmer at the time that I swam across the Oder quite frequently. 
It had a very nice promenade going to a place called Wilhelmshafen, 
and it was a very pleasant town. 

Glaser: We didn't talk at all about the education of your parents. Had 
they gone to a Gymnasium? 

Altman: My father was not given the chance to go to a university. I don't 
even know if he made the Abitur (graduation). I have a notion he 
did not. He went into a commercial life for which he was not 
particularly gifted. I always felt he would have done much better 
if he would have been an employee, let's say, at the railroads or a 
teacher. I imagine certain professions and activities were closed 
to the Jewish people. And he had some problems on that score as an 
agent. You know, a much better activity would have been the 
academic field or employment by a government agency or something 
like that. He was more that type. 

Glaser: By whom was he employed as an agent? 

Altman: No, he had connections with factories, you see? 

Glaser: Oh, he was self-employed as an agent? 

Altman: Yes. 

Glaser: I see. He was a middleman who went to buy the hemp. 

Altman: Yes, exactly. 

Glaser: We didn't talk about your mother at all in our first interview. 

Altman: Yes. Well, she came from an excellent family. I mean outstanding. 
Basically, they were in the banking business very high-class 
Jewish bankers. They were mostly living in Karlsruhe, which is in 
Baden. It was a very large family, and the great man in that 
branch of the family was Moses Goldberg. Everybody looked up to 


Altman: him as the family's patriarch. My mother belonged to that family 
I think through her mother, my grandmother, whose first name was 

Glaser: Lucie Goldberg? 

Altman: Yes, whom I loved dearly and of whom I can hardly think that she 
had to end the way she had to end that she was taken to a 
concentration camp. She had a terrible end, and I can never forget 
it. I remember the many Sunday morning visits; she always prided 
herself for the confidences I opened up to her. There was always 
the Malaga wine and a special kind of chocolate cookie she knew I 

Glaser: Was she the only grandparent you knew? 

Altman: No. I knew both my father's father and mother, but only slightly. 
I don't know why. I don't really remember much about them. 

Glaser: You had more to do with your mother's parents than with your 
father's parents? 

Altman: With my mother's mother. My mother's father died very young from 
diabetes, which at that time could not be controlled. 

Glaser: Did your mother have brothers or sisters? 

Altman: No. She was the only one. 

Glaser: What sort of education did she have? 

Altman: I don't remember that too well, either; I don't think she spoke 

about that very much. But she went to the they called it Lyceum, 
I think. She never did much with it. 

Glaser: She was a housewife? 

Altman: Yes. 

Glaser: Did you live in an apartment? 

Altman: Yes. I remember on the ground floor there was a man who had the 
nobility title. And then there was, of course, a Portier, which 
was what they called 

Glaser: Concierge? 

Altman: Yes. I believe there were six apartments in the house. We had the 
second floor, the one on the left side. 

Glaser: How large was it? 


Altman: Well, the ceilings were very much higher than here; you know that. 
And the rooms were also bigger. It had only one bathroom for the 
whole apartment. And it was ice-cold in winter; when your heater 
was off the old way, you know. One room, maybe, was heated. 

Glaser: You had those big tile stoves, a Kacheloven? 

Altman: Yes. And during the war, while my father was away, I remember that 
my grandmother moved in with us, and we had always other people 
who just rented a room. That was very common. So all these people 
together had one bathroom, unheated; nobody thought anything about 

Glaser: Did you have servants? 

Altman: Yes, she earned about five dollars a month. 

Glaser: Did she live with you? 

Altman: Yes, but don't ask how. [laughter] Servants didn't have a very 

good life. She did the cleaning and laundry, and she was there the 
whole time. Probably every second Sunday she had the afternoon 
off. It was the old-fashioned, patriarchal system. It was not 
very attractive to be a housemaid. 

Glaser: Were your parents strict with you and your sister Vera? 

Altman: No, I don't think so. In the first place, we were both very easy. 
And with me it was right away the interest in music. No. I don't 
think I had any possible reason to be unhappy. 

Glaser: What sort of activities did you do with your parents? 

Altman: None. 

Glaser: No? Did you go on outings? 

Altman: Oh, I see. Very rarely. Maybe we did, but I don't remember any 
particular ones. Maybe summer vacations, you know. 

Glaser: On the weekend, did parents do things with their children at that 

Altman: No. But you went with your own classmates. 

Glaser: Was your parents' social life mostly with your father's brothers, 
or was their social life more with friends? 

Altman: The latter. My father's brothers were not in Breslau. My father 
came from East Prussia. That is the very top of the most eastern 
and northern part of Germany at that time. Today it is Poland 


again. Well, not again, but it is Polish today. My uncle Arthur, 
in any case, stayed in East Prussia. He was a musician there, as 
we mentioned, and he came down to the Silesian mountains, usually 
during the summer. Once or twice, maybe twice, I went there to 
meet him. This was heaven for me in that I could talk about music 
with my uncle and did that at great lengths. He was very 
encouraging, and he even gave me some scores of his. I have quite 
a few of his right here. [points to bookshelf] These are all 
orchestral scores. He, by the way, was also an organist in 
Konigsberg, as I mentioned, and played in a church, the court 
church. You know why it is called the court church? 

Glaser: No. 

Altman: The ruler's church. 

Glaser: But you didn't have a king any longer. 

Altman: He was a generation older than I am, you know. He started there 
already around 1900. 

Glaser: But the Kaiser was in Berlin, wasn't he, rather than in 

Altman: Yes, but he could still have a court church there. It was just the 
name of it. 

My uncle was married and his wife objected that he talked 
about music so much with me. He was supposed to rest. And from a 
certain moment on, she said, "Now you have talked enough about 
music. No more." And then he would stop. And I was mad. 

Glaser: Of course. How old were you at that time? 
Altman: Maybe fifteen. 

Glaser: It must have been wonderful to have an uncle with whom you could 
share this great interest. 

Altman: Yes, but it was very sporadic. But whenever it came, I was always 
delighted. He also perished I don't know how. He was quite a 
tall, handsome man. 

Actually, in physique, outlook on life, and character, I take 
much more after my mother's side. Despite my affection for Uncle 
Arthur, I felt much more akin to my mother's family. 

Glaser: You preferred your mother's side of the family? 
Altman: Definitely, yes. 


Musical Experiences 



You said that you didn't have very many activities with your 
parents, but you did things with your chums, with your friends. 
What sorts of things did you do? 

Mostly talking about music. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But 
that's what it was. The interest in music was so pronounced in 
Breslau particularly so much was offered. We had an opera house 
which played only opera for eleven months a year. There was a 
special theatre just for light opera Operette, it's called for 
the same eleven months. Then there was a separate orchestra, with 
a very poor conductor; but he kept his job because in Germany 
everybody working for a musical institution kept his job. You 
know, you never let anybody go because he was no good anymore. You 
kept him on anyway. And chamber music was immense and solo 
recitals, one after another. And many particularly Jewish 
people professional or business people or whatever, had chamber 
music every week in their homes. That was a source of great 
enjoyment, and I fully participated in that, starting when I was 
still very young. 

There are all kinds of funny stories which could be told, and 
maybe this is the moment to do so. I looked very young, and that 
gave me a bad time because I figured that the older people wouldn't 
take to me because they didn't want to talk much with a child. So, 
I made up that whenever I went to somebody with something musical, 
I would pretend that my father sent this through me, his son. 
Really crazy. 

When I was eighteen years old, I composed an orchestral piece 
with the title, "Funeral March." It was very much beholden to the 
music of Anton Bruckner who at that time played a great role in my 
musical life. The orchestra leader, who agreed to run it through 
at least at a rehearsal of his orchestra, which was the orchestra 
of the mail carriers of Breslau [laughter]. They practiced every 
Monday in some god-forsaken hall. I gave them the score, and I had 
written out all the parts I still have the stuff here for the 
individual players. They had no duplicating machines at that time. 
So every Monday was a chance to hear that piece played. 

I was very unfortunate because one Monday the first oboe 
wouldn't come he broke his leg. The next Monday the concert 
master had a cold. And so on and so forth. But finally we did hit 
it right. And I remember it very well how I was in seventh heaven 
to hear my music played by an orchestra. Afterwards, when it was 
over the conductor took the music back. Then after a week or two I 
went up to collect my music and said, "My father is very grateful 
that you did this for him and we all appreciate it very much," and 
marched off. I never told him what I had done. [laughter] 

Glaser ; 



They didn't know it was your music? 

They thought it was your 

[laughing] I don't know, but nobody said anything. And my own 
father didn't even know it. 

And another occasion that I remember was when I had an 
interest in Esperanto. It was very popular in Germany at that 
time. I belonged there to a group. The basic motive of the 
activity was to get postage stamps for nothing. You see, you would 
start to correspond in Esperanto with a guy, say, from Finland or 
Italy or wherever, and he would send you postage stamps, maybe 
twenty-five, without any charge because you sent him your German 
ones, which cost us nothing. To save the money and also to promote 
the case of Esperanto, we did that. But one man I remember from 
either Finland or Yugoslavia sent me his picture stating that he 
would like to have my picture in return. He was interested to know 
what kind of a guy I was. There I was in trouble because I didn't 
want him to know that I was so terribly young. So I sent him my 
father's picture. So that's some of the things. That gives you, 
maybe, a little bit of an idea of how life was in Breslau at that 

Glaser: Yes. 

Mr. Altman' s Written Thoughts 


Altman: I have written some thoughts giving more of the background in 
Breslau. [He reads from his notes] 

Now, I would say that my mother was the only child. My 
grandmother was number seventeen imagine of eighteen children 
born to the Abt family. My grandmother Lucie that's her first 
name married Ludwig Goldberg. And Ludwig was, to the best of my 
knowledge, an agent in glass and he traveled quite a bit. 
Unfortunately, he was ill he had diabetes and at that time there 
was no medication. He did not even observe the rules at that time 
of very strict dieting. As a matter of fact, he belittled that; 
and the illness eventually caught up with him. He was unusually, 
by the way, fond of sweets. He died fairly suddenly, it seems, 
while on a business trip. That was in 1898, possibly in Karlsruhe 
or around there. Incidentally, I was named after him. It was a 
custom of the Jewish people to name a new baby by the name of 
somebody in the family who had died before. So that way I got the 
name Ludwig. 


Altman: Ludwig Goldberg had a brother, Moses Goldberg, who was a big shot 
evidently, in the banking business, in the financial world. Moses 
Goldberg, in a way, took over. When there was a problem in the 
family personal, financial one went to Uncle Moe and he took care 
of the situation. He was like a patriarch. He must have been a 
marvelous, marvelous man. He helped my mother and my grandmother 
after Ludwig Goldberg had died. 

At first, the glass business was taken over by my grandmother 
who was a wonderful, wonderful person. And later on she got 
support from the family, particularly in the World War I years: 

So, this is rather vaguely remembered because I was so young. 
I heard little and rarely about the whole thing, but that is as 
much as I can remember. I was, after all, only four years old when 
the war broke out. And during this time I was brought up by my 
mother and by my grandmother . 

German School System 

Altman: I still remember entering the German school system in 1917 in the 
midst of the war. After three years in the so-called Vorschule, I 
entered this Gymnasium. May I say a word about the educational 
system at that time, since it may not be known to everybody? The 
Gymnasium higher education was reserved for, you can almost call 
it, the elite, which represented of the general population roughly 
fifteen to twenty percent at most. And that led to the Abitur. 
That was the dreaded final examination which you had to pass in 
order to be admitted to study any subject at any university or 
special school of higher education. In the Gymnasium, I was a 
miserable student and seemingly completely unable to master the 
tons of learning. That was borne out by my final scoring in the 
Abitur; nothing but Genugends. Genu'gend is the same as a "C." 
Subject after subject I had a "C" and only once a very good, an 
"A," and that was in music, of course. 

Now I would like to say a word about the school system of 
Germany in relationship to one's personal life. I have often 
wondered and discussed the question of the superiority or 
inferiority of the German school system as, for instance, compared 
to the American with my beloved wife, who was a school teacher all 
her life with great success by the way. She was absolutely first- 
class and now retired. Is the American educational system better 
or worse than the German one, which is actually also the European 
one? And it's still in force in Europe, with some deviations and 
some concessions made, so it is a little more like ours, but 
basically still the old type. 


Altman: Now generalizing, of course, is always unsatisfactory because it 
takes no cognizance of the many holes in the fabric, yet certain 
conclusions can be drawn still. I consider the co-educational 
practice better than the one that separates the two genders, 
because it makes for more natural contact. And I also believe that 
the freer, more informal attitude between students and also 
between teachers and students makes for a much more enjoyable 
relationship for everybody in school. And it gives, also, more 
encouragement for anybody doing something exceptional. That was 
never so in Germany; it was a strict disciplinarian attitude 
towards learning as well as towards your teachers. It was always 
a toss-up war who would win over in other words, be victorious, so 
to speak in the relationship between the students sitting 
below and the teachers sitting on a podium. And it made, also, for 
more individual attention hopefully because we know about the 
large classes in our public schools and other schools. 

And yet it seems to me it would have been better for somebody 
as musical as I was, with such a strong, definite preference for 
how to spend his or her time, if I had been raised in an American 
school. The famous saying that the European schools give you a 
background is good, but it's better on paper than it really is. 
Because as soon as you left after the Abitur you forgot promptly 
everything you had learned in school and concentrated only on the 
one thing which you enrolled for. 

The huge amount, for instance, of Latin which was thrown at 
me. When I was about ten years old, I had about six to eight hours 
of instruction in the ancient Latin from then on all the way up to 
the Abitur. Greek was added, too, when I was twelve years old, and 
there were also about six to seven hours of Greek every week. So 
imagine, with those two languages, you spent twelve to fourteen 
hours weekly in class, plus the homework. And how much, or rather 
how little, how very little do I recall today? Next to nothing. I 
can still write the Greek script and pronounce it properly. I 
mean the old way, you know, as an ancient language. But it didn't 
even do me too much good that I had also music as a subject because 
that was, I think, once a week or so for one hour. And it was 
considered only Nebenfach a minor subject. 

French I had two measly hours a week and English none. Misery 
was concentrated in other words, school was definitely not the 
place you would look forward to entering, but only to the time that 
you could get out of the damn school. 

Now, the American system has also faults, in my opinion 
short-comings, rather. Who am I to talk about that? One of the 
many bad features I see is the American system offers too many 
subjects for too short a time. When you travel with an American 
passport to Europe, you are always amused when fellow Americans 
talk with natives and talk to them in their language. And there's 


Altman: always that funny thing that with great pride they tell you that 
they took two hours a week for two years in school; but what do 
they remember? Ten, twenty words, and they pronounce them with 
great pride and usually incorrectly. [laughter] 

That is very alien to a European-born because in Europe you 
rarely display anything that is not mastered reasonably well. It 
is unlikely that a European would start to speak English in 
America, or wherever, if he only knew a few foreign words. It is 
just not done. If you start to speak a few words, the European 
assumes that you know the language and will answer rapidly and be 
disappointed that you cannot go on because you don't even under 
stand what he says. That always has amused me; it's almost 
unfailing. So next time you go to Europe be guided by my little 
homily. If you know enough French or German or whatever that you 
can get along, hold your own in conversing with the European 
person, then by all means go ahead. But if you know only a 
smattering, don't make a fool of yourself. Just speak in your own 
language and let the other guy worry about mutual understanding. 

Breslau During World War I 

Altman: What I also remember from my years in Breslau was the devastating 
situation as the First World War progressed, because you know that 
the Allies, after they got a toehold on the U-boats the U-boats 
not only stopped the food supply, it also sank so many other boats. 
And so as the time went on there was an ever-increasing and 
worsening of the food shortage. I remember very well that finally 
we had to eat grass which was dried on our balcony, and bread with 
potatoes inside. And actually dreaming of milk and butter and 
decent bread is still in my memory. And that, of course, changed 
after the end of the war. Excuse me for a moment. [tape turned 


Glaser : 

Altman : 


First Thoughts about Leaving, 1933 

Mr. Altman, how did your decision come about to leave Germany, 
to emigrate? 

First of all, you may now call me Ludwig. After all, we have been 
together several times. And I can call you Elly. 

Glaser: Fine. 

Altman: There was a real quandary after the Hitler regime started: what 
to do with one's life. Basically, I'm a sedentary person: if 
something is good even half good I would rather stay than leave. 
This became a real problem and more and more so. The first time 
the idea came that leaving Germany would not only be advisable, but 
necessary, came to me in October, 1933. It was the first time the 
Jewish community of Berlin used my services as an organist. After 
the high holy days in 1933, they sent me as an organist to 
Kb'penick for the harvest festival, the so-called Succoth. And 
there the rabbi told me very emphatically that he had no hopes 
whatsoever for the existence of Jewish people in Germany and he had 
already sent his own son to England. 

This was really a very strange move to do at that early time. 
The basic idea of the Jewish people, and of many non-Jews, was that 
Hitler would run his course and things would stabilize again, 
either by his being overthrown by another vote of the government, 
or perhaps because of his ineptitude, or by whatever means. But no 
one anticipated the idea that Nazi power would ever become so 
monstrous in every respect and so destructive. And so that was the 
first dilemma stay or leave. 



Altman: The trouble was also that the Jewish leaders of the time, of course 
with the best motivation and the earnest desire to suggest the 
right thing, always had the idea that particularly talented young 
Jewish people like myself should stay. That we could and would 
survive and continue our Jewish tradition in Germany. It was here 
that survival became the central problem. Since Hitler cut us off 
from all contact with non-Jews, one had to have a job within a 
Jewish organization. Jewish doctors could treat patients, but only 
Jewish ones, and so on. You get the idea, I am sure. 

Glaser: Was it difficult to get out of Germany? 

Altman: No, quite the opposite. Up to actual outbreak of World War II in 
1939, Hitler wanted us out. Of course, leaving our remaining 
material substance behind. 

Glaser: Where was the problem then? 

Altman: Depression and unemployment had created additional grave problems 
for most countries, including the U.S.A. Too few German Jews were 
admitted; to give you an idea, the annual quota of the U.S. was a 
paltry 40,000. Remember that this was a highly skilled group of 
people in the most desperate need of a refuge. It is a miracle to 
me that as many got out in time as did. 

Difficulty in Obtaining U.S. Visa 

Glaser: Were you and Emmy, your wife, able to help someone else to get out? 

Altman: Thank God, yes. Emmy brought her mother over and I both my 

parents. All came with one of the last transports. It was not easy 
to rescue them. The U.S. government wanted assurance that no one 
admitted to the U.S. would become dependent on public charity for 
five years. 

Glaser: How then could you get in? Did you bring a lot of money with you? 

Altman: [laughs] Heavens, no. The Nazis allowed all of ten dollars to be 
taken out. 

Glaser: Were you married when you came over or did you meet Emmy here? 

Altman: The latter. 

Glaser: Did you say that your mother was in favor of your emigrating? 

Altman: Yes, yes. She was also the one who wanted me to go to Berlin and 
not stay in Breslau; she had that knack or intuition. 


Glaser: By "knack" do you mean she was foresighted and could see what was 

Altman: Yes. She felt it should be done this way. And so luckily I had 
some relatives in San Francisco who could be let me call it 
imposed on and almost "roped into" helping me out and sending me 
the papers to get the American visa. My aunt, Pauline Freudenthal, 
who had a son my age. He, however, was not in San Francisco at 
that time; he studied at Columbia. But I moved in almost like I 
was another son. 

Glaser: So you had no difficulty in leaving Germany at that point, and then 
you came directly to San Francisco? 

Altman: Yes, exactly. 
Glaser: And that was in 1937? 

Altman: I left Germany at the very end of '36 I think Christmas, or even 
after Christmas. 



Stay in New York 

Altman: In the beginning, the language was a hardship. But you know, if you 
have to and if you are young, you learn quickly. Also, I found 
that the very best way to learn a language is to attend religious 
services. Absolutely, because there is usually ponderous talking, 
and in the sermon there are many repetitious words because the 
subject matter calls for it. 

Glaser: Interesting. Which congregation did you go to for the services? 

Altman: Well, I didn't stay in New York too terribly long, but I went 

usually to the Hebrew Tabernacle. There was another reason why I 
chose it. The cantor there hired me instantly as organist for his 
temple. It was one of those marvelous things that from the moment 
I came over, I had an uninterrupted chain of good luck coming my 
way. One thing after another fell into place. And it was all 
important towards building a new life in a new country. 

Glaser: What made you decide not to stay in New York if you obtained such a 
position so fast? 

Altman: Because I had a ticket to go to San Francisco. I accepted all jobs 
I got en route, but I wanted to, after all, first see what it is 
like to be here in San Francisco. And, of course, after I went 
through a January in New York, a February in Chicago, and then the 
March in San Francisco where the sun shone, that didn't require any 
more argument. [laughter] 

Glaser: There was no competition. 
Altman: No. 

But I should then say a word about how it came about in New 
York what happened to me there because that has some curiosity 
interest, perhaps. You know that the Hitler regime let you have 


Altman: only ten dollars' worth of foreign exchange. But good luck was 

with me. I had a boat ticket purchased in Berlin to go through the 
Panama Canal, and the Panama Pacific Line was on strike when I 
arrived in New York. I had to be repaid the equivalent amount. 
So all of a sudden I had $200, which at the time was a considerable 
number of dollars. And with those I had some leeway all of a 
sudden; so that made things much better and enabled me to stay in 
New York. 

It was not even so easy to get into New York proper. You had 
to have somebody waiting by the boat to take you under his arms. 
Now, I was fortunate. There was a very lovely gentleman, Alfred 
Zadig, who waited hours and hours. You know, those things are 
never on time. And then he and his wife a charming lady took me 
for lunch at the Madison Square Restaurant. 

Glaser: How did they know that you were arriving? 

Altman: Well, because Alfred Zadig 1 s mother and my grandmother were friends 
from ages past. I didn't know them. 

Glaser: Your mother or your grandmother wrote to them? 
Altman: Yes, definitely. They had written all about it. 

But one thing, a terrible sin of omission. My life in Berlin 
requires that I make a paragraph on one of my wonderful aunts, who 
has done marvels for me, and I was never grateful to her. I feel 
very bad about it. I could not rescue her; she wrote, but I could 
not do it. I got both of my parents out, but that was the extent 
of what I could do. That was my aunt, Rosa Jacobsohn. 

Glaser: You spoke about her she gave you meals. 

Altman: Yes, that's right. Every week, on Friday and Sunday, I would go to 
her. And for the Mitaggbrot, which is the main meal. And not 
only that, but she also discussed my moves and supported them with 
everybody whom she knew. You know, to be always recommended and 
pull strings for you. She did all that in an absolutely altruistic 
fashion, and I never showed much appreciation. I was too dumb or 
too young, or whatever. But I feel very bad about those two, that 
I couldn't rescue their lives; but they were also too old. So, let 
it be said here. 

Glaser: You were talking about Mr. and Mrs. Zadig, who took you to lunch. 

Altman: Yes. And there I learned my first lesson. Rather, I realized that 
I learned it; that in America you should thank people and express 
appreciation freely. It's a custom and we are used to it. After a 
while you do it as the others do it. 


Glaser: Are you saying that's not true in Germany? 

Altman: Well, it is true. Of course we expressed our appreciation, but 
perhaps not in such an instant and continuous way. It might be 
only a difference in quantity; but evidently I had to learn that. 

In any case, the Zadigs were wonderful. They took me to their 
home in New Rochelle and that's where I spent my first night. 

Glaser: Did they help you find the job with the Hebrew Tabernacle? 

Altman: It could very well be. It went very, very quickly. I arrived on a 
Thursday January 8, I think it was, 1937 and maybe a week later I 
met a cantor. I don't remember his name. Who sent me to him or 
how I got there, I really don't recall. But I know that his 
invitation was to start the next Monday, which ruined me because I 
was never used to that promptness. 

A Stop in Chicago 

Altman: I stayed in Chicago a while despite the truly awful weather. I 
rented a room for three weeks at a total cost of five dollars. 
That was the Depression. I stayed because Chicago was over 
whelming, in its grandeur. I even liked it better than New York 
because it was more concentrated. More potent reasons for staying 
there a while was a connection I had through the B'nai B'rith to a 
Rabbi Shulman in Glencoe, who had me come and audition for them as 
there was a vacancy for an organist. I was fortunate in getting 
the job offer. I played usually some Bach and some romantic 
music at these auditions. The synagogue was new and beautiful and 
the organ was a good one. I believe they really would have liked 
to have me stay. 

Mrs. Shulman spoke about having the Women's Guild sponsor a 
recital in Chicago proper. In any case I had now two positions 
promised, the one at the Hebrew Tabernacle in New York and now also 
the one in Glencoe, Illinois. 

I had a reunion with Allan Wayne. I do not remember if we 
spoke of him yet. Well, even if we did it might warrant repeating. 
Allan was a dancer at the opera in Breslau and I was his 
accompanist for his solo recitals. When I moved to Berlin to begin 
my studies he moved also to Berlin, not because of me so much but 
for a better paid job as a solo dancer in a cabaret. He was by 
religion a Christian Scientist but by race a Jew. Luckily his 
instinct or whatever advised him to leave Germany and to go home to 
Terre Haute where he was born. 


Altaian: It comes back to me as I think of it that I accompanied him to 

the station on Zoologischer Garten (Zoo). He was leaning out of 
the window as the train rolled out and repeated himself in saying 
"Ludwig, come to Terre Haute; we shall work out a program and go on 
tour in the U.S." I laughed since I saw no reason nor need to 
leave the country where I grew up and where my parents, grand 
parents, et cetera, had lived for centuries. Imagine that this 
happened in December of 1932, one month before Hitler became the 
despotic ruler of Germany and the avalanche of evil and destruction 
started to roll, burying millions and millions of innocent human 

Allan and I had a frank talk. This was February 1937, as 
against December 1932 when we parted, during which time I had 
switched more and more from the piano to the organ. We agreed that 
it was better to build up my organ career, also easier. There are 
far fewer organists than pianists and almost no Jewish ones. 
Tellingly all of the German Jewish refugees got top jobs in the 
U.S., also in Canada, England, and Australia. 

Allan could see the point and understood my reasoning. We 
parted as good friends. We met years later once more. Allan had 
gone to New York in the meantime and established a dance studio of 
his own. 



Temple Emanu-El and Assistance to New Immigrants 

Glaser: You came to this country and to San Francisco under the 
Freudenthal's sponsorship? Did you stay with them? 

Altman: Yes. I stayed with them for three years. I occupied the place in 
a way of my cousin Daniel. [tape turned off while Mrs. Altman 
takes her leave] There were three people there: my Aunt Pauline 
and her sister, Aunt Rose, and Uncle Julius. He was the husband of 
Rose. They were marvelous to me and took me into their home on 
Jackson Street where I stayed three years, until my parents came. 

My relatives remarked later how dead serious I looked, 
shlepping my old and heavy typewriter, wearing my heavy winter 
coat. This coat I did not wear often. I erred also in selecting 
my light clothes for summer. In my opinion we have only two kinds 
of weather in San Francisco, either cool or cold. And I thought in 
terms of a palm tree landscape. Now we know better and can 
recognize freezing tourists by their light garb. 

Glaser: Did you then improve your English? 

Altman: Actually, I think once I was here nobody taught me any English. I 
am ashamed to say, as I hear my own voice now I'm horrified. I 
always thought that I spoke with much less of an accent than I 
actually do. 

We learned English in all kinds of classes, et cetera, and 
Temple Emanu-El was very helpful. And particularly the late Mrs. 
M.C. Sloss, whom you undoubtedly know by reputation. She was 
almost like a first lady of San Francisco. Temple Emanu-El was 
also very interested in the German Jews, and we had our meetings 
there and talks and all kinds of things to help us. It was almost 
better than in New York. That is one thing I don't think I 


Altman: mentioned. There was, of course, a very large institution helping 
the Jewish refugees from Germany, like today we have it for the 
Soviet Jewish people. They find people who are lost. 

Glaser: Isn't that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society? 

Altman: Yes, it is. But for us there were also places where you could go 
to ask if they had a job for you. 

Glaser: Are you talking about New York or San Francisco? 

Altman: Both. They are actually the same thing, only the one in New York 

is bigger. And I also was advised in New York to go to the organi 
zation for that purpose and I did so, but it was unsatisfactory. 
In all honesty I must say that sometimes those organizations are 
feeding on themselves and not what they are supposed to do 
primarily. In New York I found that to be especially true because 
when I went there, and there was a bevy of beautiful young girls 
very pretty and so well-groomed, far prettier than the German 

I said, "All I would like to know, if you would be kind 
enough to phone some of the synagogues and ask if they can use an 
organist a Jewish organist who has a fine reputation. He knows 
the work, he knows the service, et cetera." But that they would 
not do. They had to do it just exactly like for something 
ordinary, you know. "Unfortunately, there is nothing we can give 
you right now except maybe cleaning a house twice a week and those 
manual jobs." But they would not go out of their way of thinking. 
My case was very unique but at the same time very promising, 
because nothing is easier than to take the phone and phone three or 
four of the most prominent synagogues in New York. There's no 
mystery except a plain "yes" or "no" reply. 

But I found a job at the Hebrew Tabernacle without help. And 
when they heard about that, they were very anxious to know how I 
went about it to get the job. I had to advise them where they 
should have advised me. But I had my lesson and when I arrived in 
San Francisco I bypassed our organization and went instead right 
away to Temple Emanu-El's cantor [Reuben R.] Rinder who in turn 
introduced me to Wallace Sabin, Emanu-El's organist, who not only 
gave me permission to play and practice on the organ but to sit 
with him during the service. 

Mr. Sabin was a native of England, where he received his 
musical education mostly as an Episcopalian Church organist. He 
served our temple with distinction for well over thirty years. He 
was not in good health and had me play the more difficult scores 
and take over for him for vacations. His hands shook badly 
[indicates]. He died suddenly, conducting a concert of the Loring 
Club, mourned by many. Cantor Rinder wrote a beautiful eulogy. I 


Altman: was touched when Mr. Sabin's daughter told me that her father had 
repeatedly expressed the wish that I some day should be his 

Teaching Piano at San Bruno Settlement House 

Glaser ; 



Even this fine job was not enough to support you, was it? 

No. An organ job is, in most cases, a part-time job. It is a very 
strange position, professionally and financially speaking. I would 
say it is financially so uninviting and discouraging that many 
people only use it as an avocation, as a hobby even, perhaps like 
playing golf. Things are changing now. And since churches and 
synagogues have become very competitive, music in the church is 
actually used to attract members. Churches and temples are very 
concerned about getting people who can organize concerts, can 
organize volunteer choirs, can organize singing in religious 
schools, et cetera. And as that grows, so grows also the honor 
arium, which the top-notchers can demand and now, growingly, do 
demand. I think it's a move in the right direction. 

What did you do in order to earn more money? 
turned off temporarily] 

[phone rings; tape 

As I mentioned before, I am gratefully aware that I had a streak of 
good fortune. A week or two after 1 arrived in San Francisco, my 
family Pauline, Uncle Julius, Aunt Rose took me over to Oakland 
to meet more Freudenthals and some other Mishpocha [family]. 

There I met Pauline Levy who worked at a settlement school on 
San Bruno Avenue. She told me of a vacancy for a piano teacher. 
That was a school for less-affluent people who could learn all 
kinds of things in that settlement school, which had a Miss Grace 
Wiener as director and principal. There was also a fund to pay a 
piano teacher twice a week for three hours each to teach six 
students for half an hour. This sounded very nice, and was 
actually my first job in San Francisco. But don't forget that I 
had already one organ job offer in New York and another one in 
Glencoe, Illinois, north of Chicago. And now I had this offer to 
become a piano teacher. 

I got five dollars for each afternoon. This was certainly not 
much but I enjoyed the kids, mostly beginners. I found them much 
friendlier, more open and trusting than their counterparts in 
Germany, realizing the vastly different conditions between Berlin 
and San Francisco. Miss Wiener who interviewed me evidently took a 
liking to me, and I will never forget that first piano lesson 
which I gave. There was a young boy who came with his cap on, 


Altman: which he kept on. As he sat on the piano bench I towered over him. 
By the window sat Miss Wiener knitting and supposedly just sitting 
there. But, of course, she actually wanted to see how well I would 
do. So I gave a little talk about how to play in my primitive 
English. And when I was stopping, he looked up at me and said, 
"What did you say, Mister?" He had not understood anything I had 

But it did not matter and I kept the job for quite a few 
years, only interrupted by my stint in the U.S. Army during World 
War II. Miss Wiener was a wonderful human being, like a second 
mother to the youngsters of the district. She had untiring energy. 
When she retired the settlement closed up: no adequate replacement 
could be found. 

Organist for Congregation Beth Israel 
[Interview 3: April 21, 1988] ## 

Altman: My first organ job in San Francisco I got from Beth Israel, the 
Conservative temple on Geary and Fillmore. A beautiful old 
building with a lovely sounding organ hard to play because of 
its irregular pedal keys. They were hard to push down, yet 
produced a rich foundation for warm string, flute and reed pipes. 
Unfortunately sometime later fire broke out, destroying the 
instrument, and it's a great loss. 

Glaser: Tell me about your connection with Beth Israel. 

Altman: Glad to. The organist at that time was a Christian who could not 
play on the Passover, Pesach, services because it coincided with 
Easter. So the synagogue desperately needed an organist who could 
step in at the last moment. The Pesach service is not easy. It's 
like a Sabbath service, but with additions. So Cantor Rabinovich 
a saintly man, a patriarch, a wonderful musician, but terribly hard 
of hearing asked me to meet him. He was very anxious to know if 
I knew enough Hebrew to follow the service. I said, "Yes, I am 
confident. I had, after all, four years of synagogue-playing in 
Berlin." He said, "Well, I'll give you one question. If you can 
answer it, then I'll give you the job." And what was the question? 
"Tell me the translation of the Hebrew word chet. What is chet?" I 
said to the cantor, "I know the translation in German, but I don't 
know the English word for it." "It's all right," he said. "If you 
know it in German, tell me." So I said, "Chet means suende." 
Suende means in English, sin. And because I knew the equivalent to 
chet, I got this first organ job in America. 


Glaser: In San Francisco. 

Altman: In San Francisco, yes. In Chicago and New York, I only got the job 
offer, but I never actually played. I was supposed to come back or 
start right away, but I never did either. 

Glaser: Oh, I thought you had performed there. 

Altman: No, no. I only had a contract in my pocket that I could start 
anytime. But my engagement at Beth Israel was the actual first 
time that I performed and got paid. 

This, my debut, produced some humorous remembrance. Cantor 
and choir always rehearsed in a very small room right about where 
the organ loft stood. There was an old harmonium standing there. 
The cantor was very concerned with perfection (he was, himself, a 
good musician) and always with the dynamics very soft, louder, 
louder, again soft, et cetera. But when he went downstairs to the 
bima (that is the pulpit in the synagogue) he was so very hard of 
hearing that he could hear the choir and the organ only if every 
body sang or played fortissimo. So all this fine practicing in the 
upstairs room was a total waste. But everybody knew about his 
handicap and he was so beloved that nobody criticized him; it was 
lovingly tolerated. 

Did you have any contact with the rabbi of the congregation? 

No, you work with your rabbi very little. The music is really 
handled by the cantor, who learns it and knows it very well and has 
all the material at his fingertips. With the rabbi the relation 
ship is like grandfather, father and son, if you want to call it 
that way. Only in rare cases will you have direct dealings with 
your rabbi, mainly in cases where you have a Christian organist or 
where the congregation is small and the rabbi takes more of an 
interest, a knowledgeable interest to be hoped for. In other 
words, the situation is always in flux; there is no standard way. 
I was always fortunate that I got along well with my rabbis, and 
with my cantors as well. 

Glaser: Please tell me about some of the other jobs that you had before you 
began with Temple Emanu-El. 

Altman: At first I did, of course, what everybody told me to do, that the 
only way to do it was to make contacts, to make yourself known. 
And there I was most successful, way beyond my deserving. The 
reason being that the prestige of German music was so overwhelming 
in general that it was quite easy to be accepted by the public and 
to be noticed and supported by the press. Here is the place and 
moment to recognize and to thank them for their interest in my 
progress. The above does by no means mean that I received only 
praise. At times I deserved "bad" reviews and I got them. In the 

Glaser : 


Altman: beginning then, I made the rounds of my own colleagues, some of the 
fine other organists. Although there was if you want to call it 
competition, it wasn't overwhelming. Only a few, really, were very 
good players. 

The main lack was that there was no high-class organ music 
played as much as trite little pieces and transcriptions from the 
literature of other instruments. But really top-notch, 
unassailable programming did not exist. And that's the way I was 
brought up, with very high-class literature which, however, was so 
limited because the European organist had to play his Bach, his 
Buxtehude, Franck perhaps, and a little bit of Mendelssohn. Then 
definitely the organ music of Max Reger very important. But if he 
knew a dozen pieces, really he could go through life musical life, 
organistic life without adding much to it. And that was the way 
it was in the old country. 

I had to adjust to this different system, this American 
system, when I came here. That made it necessary for me to learn a 
whole additional literature, but not really a high-class caliber. 
And so in order to combine the two, adjust to the American taste 
plus lifting the standards of this new-to-me American situation, I 
started to write my own transcriptions. 

Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley 

Glaser: You said that you had worked in Berkeley for a Christian Science 
church. Would you tell me more about that? 

Altman: Yes, definitely. The next position which I acquired was of the 

regular organist playing for a Christian Science service. This was 
almost ideal for me because the Science service is uniform. In 
other words, the service structure and the actual reading, and the 
selection of the readings is international. The same lesson, as it 
is called, is given all over the world in the same way. If you go 
to a Christian Science service in Berlin or Zurich or London, it 
will always be the same of course, in the native language. 

I was recommended to it, and I had to be recommended because 
there was something already which did not exist in any other 
religion or religious practice. Namely that you could play the 
organ for the Christian Science service in churches, not only the 
Christian Science church, but in all churches. And that was 
something unthinkable in Europe in Berlin or any other town. For 
instance, if you were Catholic you played in Catholic churches. 
You would never play in a Protestant or Lutheran church and the 
other way around. 


Altman: The situation for the Jewish organist was again different 

because the Jewish people had access, contact, or connection with 
any of those things only after the emancipation which started 
roughly in the middle of the eighteenth century had taken hold. 
Synagogues and organs became actually (and I'll leave myself a few 
loopholes there) popular around the middle of the nineteenth 
century and only in a few places. There was also still the 
Orthodox idea very strongly held that a Jewish person who believes 
strictly in the sanctity of the Shabbat could not play the organ 
for the service because the organ was considered a machine like the 
streetcar. In other words, it was not permitted to be used by a 
Jew. And so the early organists in synagogues were Christians for 
that reason. 

It took then the liberalized ideology of the synagogue to 
permit a Jewish person to play the organ in temple. And later, 
this turned around completely because under Hitler it was decided 
by the Nazi government that a Christian wouldn't even be permitted 
to play in a synagogue because the contact between an Aryan and a 
non-Aryan, as it was foolishly called, was not allowed. For all 
these reasons, for the first time, then, 



Glaser ; 

You found a Jewish organist in synagogues, 
unknown before. 

That was totally 

Besides the Christian Science church, I also was the organist 
for some Baptist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches. 

You had told me that when you got the job at the Christian Science 
church in Berkeley you had a curfew because you were considered a 
German alien. 

Altman: Yes. That had nothing to do with my position as such because the 
permission to go over there and to play or not to play or when to 
play was made by the military. It had nothing to do with the 

Glaser: It's a very interesting anecdote. 

Altman: Now my position was at the Christian Science church (Second Church 
of Christ, Scientist it's actually called) in Berkeley, and the 
people were just loving and very encouraging. They constantly 
invited me to their homes, and I made many friends over there. 
Although I had already applied for my American citizenship, I was 
not a citizen yet. So the regulations from the headquarters, when 
the war broke out after Pearl Harbor, stipulated that I had to 
submit to certain restrictions, because God forbid, we would be 
traitors to America. Which was an absolutely absurd idea. 


Altman: We were the first total victims of Nazism, yet we were still 

suspect. And so I could play in church or any other place only if 
either I would stay there between eight in the evening and six in 
the morning. Or I would have to hire a police officer in his free 
time who would take me to the job and wait for me to take me home 
again. I would have to pay him whatever he wanted. 

Still) being able to play evening performances and concerts 
was a privilege, which some other musicians shared. 

So we did that. There was a funny story, when I had an 
engagement at the Saint Francis hotel. The police officer very 
nicely picked me up and delivered me and asked when I thought that 
he should call again to take me home. So I told him about ten 
o'clock in the evening. Sometimes those meetings, or whatever, 
last longer, and it did so in this case. All of a sudden, I heard 
hollering from the hall downstairs, "Mr. Altman, Mr. Altman, where 
are you?" There was a police officer in full uniform, and when I 
came down the steps everybody was staring as if I was a criminal 
whom he had just caught in a bad deal. 

Glaser: What would happen if you didn't have a police escort, and you 
overstayed the curfew time? 

Altman: Well, if I would have been caught 1 don't know; they could throw 
me in prison. 

When he at certain times couldn't come, then he sent another 
police officer; and that was a source of good income for those 
boys. When finally the curfew was lifted and we didn't need it 
anymore, they were disappointed. The police officers would even 
ask me when the curfew was still on if I had gotten somebody 
already for New Years. Because then he would get us somebody else 
for this and that other purpose. He could make money on that 

Glaser: Did San Francisco strike you as being a small town or provincial 
coming from the sophisticated city of Berlin, when you first got 

Altman: It's an excellent question, and I wish I could do it justice, but 
there is something in my personality which precludes any 
intelligent answer to the question. The reason is that I have 
always had a one-directional mind. In other words, if I had 
something of importance to me, I will totally ignore and disregard 
everything else. When I came to America I was interested in really 
only one thing, and that was to get established so I could support 


Bringin g Parents from Germany and Marriage to Emmy 

Altman: Then right away I had to have the means to support my parents on a 
monthly scale. As life for the Jews in Germany took a turn for the 
worse, becoming more threatening and dangerous all the time, their 
pleas to be gotten out became more urgent and desperate. I 
undertook their coming over by my guaranteeing their support. 

Glaser: How did you manage that when you had been here such a short time 

Altman: I don't know; that is one of the miracles in my life. I cannot 

answer that. It is contradictory to say that I was very poor, and 
yet I always had money, at least enough for the need of the moment. 

Did we talk about the affidavit? 
Glaser: I don't think so. Please, explain. 

Altman: Its possession or not possession meant literally the difference 

between life and death in most cases. It was an application by an 
American citizen to the U.S. Government to grant a relative living 
in another country a visa to enter the United States as visitor or 
to settle in the U.S. as a permanent citizen. I am sure that we 
spoke of the deplorably small number of visas issued, around forty 
thousand a year for Germany. 

Glaser: Did the Freudenthal family help you bring them over? 

Altman: Yes. They gave the affidavit for myself so that made it possible 
for me to come to the U.S. If they also gave it for my parents, I 
do not remember. You had to show the American Consul that you were 
financially capable of taking care of whoever got the affidavit for 
five years. Now my aunt took a chance with me. Suppose I would 
have been a bum, or I would have been a failure. Then they would 
have been stuck because the government would not support any alien 
who was not earning a living. So the Freudenthals took a chance 
vouching for me and my parents. But it worked out well. There was 
never any problem because there was no demand made on the American 
government for support of any of us. 

Glaser: Did your sister come over with your parents at the same time? 

Altman: No. My sister had already left Germany to go to what then was 

Palestine. She left even before I came here. I recall my taking 
her to the railroad station in Berlin to send her off to Palestine 
to one of the kibbutzim. In other words, she had what was very 
highly prized, even envied at that time, a Palestine certificate. 




Al tman : 

Al tman : 

Al tman : 


She was only sixteen years old; it was really terrible the 
separation from my parents. She needed them very much, particu 
larly my mother. So that's that. 

Where did your parents live when they first came over? 
still living with the Freudenthals. 

You were 

I put them up in a very nice place on California Street opposite 
Temple Sherith Israel. But then it seemed so much better, also 
financially, if they and I would live together. We did that and 
had a very nice place on Sixth Avenue and Lake Street. It's a 
corner place. Today the place is scandalously run down; it is 
terrible. But at that time it was very nice. I think it was forty 
dollars a month six rooms thanks to the OPA [Office of Price 
Administration]. The owner liked this much less. But, of course, 
leaving the Freudenthal family was not easy. We had grown very 
fond of each other, and I think of them always with gratitude and 

Did your father attempt to find work when he came here, or was he 
too old? 

He was about sixty-two. He did work, but it was nothing in any 
advanced line. I would call it casual work. 

I think the temple, or was it the federation, set up a workshop for 
refugees. Did he work in that? 

I don't know if it was exactly that, but it was on that scale, I 
would say. 

When you married Emmy in December 1940, did you have a permanent 
job with Temple Emanu-El? 

No. I got that job already in '37. 

Where did you and Emmy set up housekeeping? 

Well, I think my parents moved in with my Aunt Pauline. That's the 
way it was. They moved out then and moved in with Aunt Pauline. I 
don't even think she was there the whole year. She was a lot in 
New York. 

That's Mrs. Pauline Freudenthal? 

Yes. There were more people there then. Pauline Freudenthal has a 
sister, Rose, who was married to Uncle Julius. So I had Aunt 
Pauline, Aunt Rose, Uncle Julius those three. I believe Uncle 
Julius died first. So it was just the two ladies, and then my 
parents moved in with them. My mother got herself a part-time job 
as a companion to an old spinster, a Mrs. Rich. 


Altman: We moved to the place on Sixth and Lake, Emmy and I, and at time 
we had her mother also there. Emmy got her mother out of Germany 
in the nick of time also. 

Glaser: Was her father not alive anymore? 

Altman: Her parents were divorced. The mother was difficult. She kicked 
her father out, although he wanted to stay married to her. That's 
the way Emmy said it was. 

Glaser: Was there a housing shortage because of the new war industry, the 
ship building that started in this area? 

Altman: I don't know. I have an unusual theory about problems like that. 

You know when some people say, "I cannot get a teaching job because 
there are five thousand teachers already out of work," I never 
believed in that logic. Because you don't want five thousand jobs, 
you want just one. It's an individual thing. You need only one 
place you don't have to worry about a shortage on your personal 
level. So I don't think we had that problem of a housing shortage, 

Then my parents moved to stay with another family of refugees 
at a lovely place on the corner of Clay and Presidio. My mother- 
in-law had a place on Clay Street very close to the one I just 
mentioned. There was a family Wolf Jewish refugees from Berlin 
she had a room and meals there. 

Emmy came in August '38, more than a year and one-half after 
me. Of course, we didn't know each other. 


[Interview 2: April 11, 1988] ## 

Meeting Ludwig, January 1940, Marriage December 1940 

Glaser: Emmy, will you tell us about meeting Ludwig? 

Mrs. Certainly. We met by chance in January 1940. I was teaching at 
Altman: the Dominican College in San Rafael. 

Glaser: What were you teaching? 

Mrs. I taught French, German, and world history. I taught there since 
Altman: I came from Germany. I was very fortunate that I found a job in my 

It was a grey Sunday afternoon. I was invited to a dinner in 
the city, and I had some time to kill. So I visited this friend of 
mine on Clay Street. And the moment the door opened, I knew I was 
most unwelcome and I was very embarrassed. I wanted to get out as 
fast as I could, but they ushered me to a back room and the mother 
came and the daughter came. And finally the door opened and in 
walked Ludwig. And I knew then why [laughing] I wasn't supposed to 
be there: they didn't want me to meet Ludwig. But then I said, "I 
have to go now." And he said he had to go, too, and so we both 
walked out. He said, "Where are you going?" I said, "I have to go 
to Euclid Avenue." He said, "I will take you there." 

So we walked and talked, and we had a lot in common because we 
both had studied Germanic literature. My aunt had a friend who was 
very close to his relatives, so I knew all about him that he had 
made already a wonderful career and so on. 


Mrs. That evening, about nine o'clock, the doorbell rang. It was a 
Altman: dinner party, but I had to go back to San Rafael, of course. There 
was Ludwig saying he wanted to take me to the bus. And that was 
the beginning [laughs] of the courtship and finally that led to 
getting married. 

Of course, there were many obstacles. Ludwig had just brought 
out his parents and I had my mother come, and so it took us a year. 
We finally got married in December 1940. We met in January and it 
took us about a year [sound of car horn heard from outside] This 
is my friend. 



Inducted into the Army 

Altman: Emmy, while I courted her, was teaching at the Dominican College in 
San Rafael. But once we got married, she quit that job. But then 
there were problems right away because the draft board went after 
me, putting me into a uniform (U.S. Army) at fifty dollars a month, 
although I had to support my parents, and Emmy was the sole support 
of her mother. 

And so I was sent to army headquarters downtown for induction 
into the army. In preparation for that I had learned to play the 
clarinet. I knew already Uncle Sam was looking for me, so I 
learned that to some extent. I took lessons from a fine teacher 
and I sat in on several high school bands. I was at Lowell High 
School and at Washington High School to get some experience in 
ensemble playing. It did me a lot of good; it was a very smart 
move to make. 

Then in the spring of '43, I think it was, the air force bands 
were looking for people to be inducted into the armed forces for 
use (maybe it was already sooner, maybe '42) in the air force 
bands. That appealed very greatly to me because I knew if I had to 
go, I'd much rather go to an air force band than to an army band. 
There was a meeting at the musician's union here in San Francisco at 
230 Jones Street. I know it so well because I went there so many 
times having been a member for so many years. There was a major or 
captain, whatever, from headquarters to interview young fellows (I 
wasn't so young; I was about thirty-two) to get inducted into the 
air force. 

So I went there, and I was interviewed, and I was rejected. I 
asked at the musician's union why I was rejected. The union people 
said: "It was not the music, but you are too nervous for the air 
force." I replied: "The man saw me for just ten-fifteen minutes." 



Their answer: "You are too nervous because the air force officer 
could tell that you bite your fingernails." Isn't that something? 
I don't know if that's something for the biography? 

Glaser: Yes, absolutely. 

Altman: But by contrast the army was not so fussy. They had me come down 
sometime later, maybe a half a year or so and examined me. But 
they also didn't take me. They sent me back home again and said, 
"No. In two weeks, or three weeks, we will tell you the reason." 

After only ten days or less, I got another induction order, 
and that came from the same draft board as before. I asked how 
come that I have to go again for yet another examination so soon? 
I was told that in due time I would be notified why they didn't 
take me. I don't know if he gave any reason, or if so I forgot it. 

In any case, I had to go back after ten days and was examined 
again. The lieutenant, who had a sense of humor, said "We 
disappointed you last time, didn't take you, didn't give you the 
job. We'll do you a favor this time and take you." [laughter] As 
it turned out, I was very happy, and I hope I did some good. So 
that's how I got into the army. 

Ass igne d to the Army B and, Fort Mason, San Francisco 

Glaser: What did you do and where were you stationed? 

Altman: I went into the Fort Mason band actually without any training. I 
did not have basic training. I wouldn't have survived anyway 
because I was already thirty-two, thirty-three and definitely not 
of any physical ability. I remember when I went to Monterey, when 
I got that huge stuff to carry on my back, I couldn't handle it at 
all. I wanted to go left, and the thing on my back made me go 

One of the boys came to my rescue and helped me carry the 
stuff over to the right barracks. And there was no bunk except in 
the aisle. Then at four in the morning, we had to take an 
examination about our intelligence and so on and so forth. But it 
ended well. I was in the band, and there were many musical 
experiences which were very humorous in retrospect. 

I was pursued by good luck. I got into the Fort Mason band 
here at the port of embarkation. It was marvelous. The band was 
way over-strength. Instead of a maximum of twenty-eight, we had 
forty-two musicians, and we had wonderful conditions. We had a very 
nice band leader, a chief warrant officer by the name of Louis C. 



FRANK L WEIL, Pmldtnt 




MAX WILNER, Trw.ur.r; MERWIN R. HASKEL. Anltt.irt TrMwrer 

JOSEPH ROSENZWEIG,'.-, : RALPH K. 6UIN21URS, Aalltirt Secretary 

LOUIS KRAFT, Emcvtirt Dir.ctor 


/ er Rothschild, Chairman 
c Mai R. Wainer, Vice-Chairman 
.el S. Silli, Director 

iinmittee on Army and Navy 

145 EAST 32i.d STtEE 

NEW YORK 14. N. Y. 

LEsiagtoa J-4M9 

Cot/e AWraw 
JCWIUO He* Tart 

July 1C, 1946 

'al>i David de Sole Pool, Chairman 
tal'i Bernett R. Brickner. 

.'Iministrative Chairman 
tllii Louis M. Levitsky. Vice-Chairman 
ild Chairman. Eiacutiv* Committee 
:l i Joseph H. Lookstein. Vice-Chairman 
.il i Philip S. Bernstein 
"kulair Aaron H. Blumenthel 
>lain Ralph Blumentha! 

at' Mai D. Davidson 

at' William Drazin 

at' Louis I. Egelson 

ati Solomon B. Freehof 

at ; Herbert S. Goldstein 
.at! Robert Gordis 

at ' Abram M. Graniton 
.alii Leo Jung 

ci Simon G. Kramer 

a:i Leon S. Lang 
.bi Simcha Levy 

ati Edgar F. Magnin 

sri Elias Margolis 
.bi Emanuel Racliman 

ati Jacob P. Rudin 
>r. orton A. Seidenfeld 

ati Charles E. Shulman 
.at! Milton Steinberg 
.bi Elian C. Voortanger 
. Wainer 

ti Aryeh Uv 

Dear Friend.; 

Enclosed you will find a certificate of appre 
ciation for the service that you rendered to the religious 
welfare of Jewish personnel during the war. It goes to 
you with the gratitude of the National Jewish Welfare 
Board, the Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities, 
and the Jewish families of America. 

This war imposed special difficulties on the Jewish 
religious community. Over half a million Jewish personnel 
were scattered in innumerable military installations through 
out the world. Although over half the rabbis of the country 
offered their services to the chaplaincy, they could not 
possibly serve in all installations. Therefore, the further 
ance of the Jewish religious program in many places was de 
pendent on the devotion of Jewish G.I.'s and officers and 
the sympathetic cooperation of Christian chaplains. 

We wish to give some tangible evidence of our appre 
ciation to those who served in this way. This certificate 
goes to you with our heartfelt appreciation for that special 
service which you rendered. 

Sincerely yours, 



Rational Jewish Welfare 


Chairman, Committee on 
Army and Navy Religious 



Altaian: Til ton. He was a fairminded, decent gentleman who was a 

professional soldier who knew his way around, pleasing the generals 
and their ladies. He was a natural musician who was thrilled to 
have such a large ensemble under his command. Half of the band was 
from Local 6 in the musician's union here. The other half was the 
hillbillies that was the original one from the Ozarks. Although 
they had all the stripes, we looked down on them, of course. 
Because they were already in the band before the war, the sergeants 
and corporals were all from the hillbillies. They had most of the 
stripes and the local fellows had only a few because they got into 
the band later. 

The other half were highly sophisticated from the band or from 
the San Francisco Symphony and so on. I played clarinet, but I 
actually played the organ for all Jewish services through the whole 
time and also for many of the Protestant and Catholic services. 
Yet I was always glad to go back to the band where I played the 
clarinet. The chapel's Hammond organs were the early unimproved 
kind. Better than nothing is the best one can say. As chaplain's 
assistant I had to clean up the chapel, which I hated to do, after 
playing for so many weddings. There was always rice all over the 
place and it was very disorderly. And I had to fix flowers for 
which I had no talent at all. The boy who did that regularly was 
very good at that. 

So I got by and actually made contributions towards the 
overall war effort way beyond the average call of duty. 

Glaser: You were telling me about the general's wife. 

Altman: She would phone over to the barracks, "Can you send Pfc. Ludwig 
Altman over to entertain at tea." So I would go over, play 
"Rhapsody in Blue," "Hungarian Rhapsody," music of that kind; also 
"Clair de lune," "Moonlight Sonata," walzes, you get the idea. 

Glaser: On the piano? 

Altman: Yes, all on the piano, also lighter numbers. Then they would give 
me tea and wonderful cookies, which was very nice. 

There were all kinds of funny stories. One for instance: I 
never learned how to shoot with live ammunition because I was right 
away sent to Fort Mason without any basic training. During the 
week when I came through the induction center in Monterey, there 
was an order from headquarters in Utah that all the next inductees 
who could play a band instrument should be put instantly into a 
band. So I was sent to Fort Mason although I never had any basic 
training. But headquarters eventually caught up with us and taught 
us how to shoot. I was the only bandsman who was a born and raised 


Altman: German even called an enemy alien, so I was happy and grateful 
that through my induction into the Armed Forces I had become a 
full-fledged American citizen. 

I was the only one who could never hit the target. When we 
were first tested for all our prowess, or not prowess, as shooters 
on the pistol range, we went over to the Presidio. There was a 
moving target, and you were given six rounds of ammunition to shoot 
at the target. Then it was counted how many times you hit it and 
how close to the center. So after you had done that, you counted 
how many holes you had made on the target and that became your 

Now the fellow who shot ahead of me liked me particularly 
well, and he knew that I would never hit the target. So he shot at 
it and then pasted over his holes and left two holes open. The 
idea was that at least I would have hit the target twice, and it 
wouldn't look too bad on my score card. Then a miracle happened in 
that I hit the damn target every single time. [laughter] So the 
news spread like wildfire that Private Altman it was on the 
bulletin board all over Fort Mason in every barrack had 
miraculously made seven holes with five bullets. [laughter] 

Later on either Herb Caen or Jack Rosenbaum picked it up after 
the war. I don't know how. As it happened, additionally, that 
took place after I was in the army for one whole year, at which 
time you became practically automatically a private first class. 
You made Pfc and got one stripe and four dollars more a month. 
Instead of fifty dollars, you got fifty-four. So that was one 
funny thing. 

Another one was there was another boy in the army by the name 
of Maury Wolohan. He and I were somehow left out of going to the 
dispensary to get the shots. You get those shots all the time, but 
by some quirk, we were not on the list. During the entire war, 
when all the band trudged up there to the dispensary and those 
untrained sergeants just gave you the shots The musicians were 
always ill after that experience. They came back and couldn't hold 
the instrument. Maury and I were the only ones in best of health. 

But the nemesis came when we were discharged, when the whole 
things was over. It was in September of "45 after the surrender of 
Japan. We went up there to get our release from the dispensary to 
go then to Marysville or Oroville, one of those where we were 
discharged. The sergeant pulled our dossier or record. He said, 
"It's empty; you have never got any shots." So we said, "No, we 
were never asked to go up. We kept our mouths shut because that's 
what we were told to do in the army keep your mouth shut." So he 
said, "Well, I cannot give you the discharge here. There are just 
two things I can do: either I can give you the shots in the right 


Altman: order; then you have to stay in the army another three years. Or 
the other thing is I can give you all the shots at once right 
now, but you die from that." 

Maury was a big talker. He said, "Let us see the captain or 
the major." So, of course, we got out. Nobody cared anymore. 
The whole thing was over. But that was a lucky, funny thing. 

Glaser: You were lucky; otherwise you would have been very sick. One of 
the shots is tetanus, and that makes your arm very sore. 

Altman: Yes. They couldn't play; they couldn't hold their instruments. 
Glaser: Tetanus, and malaria, and smallpox. 

Altman: They got all that, but the band was always threatened with being 
sent overseas. 

But we had band duties.* We had to go out at anytime to 
play for the departure and return of the boats which were in the 
Pacific Fleet. It was worse when they came back from overseas. 
That was heartbreaking, even to us, when all the wounded sailors 
and army people and particularly the WACs that was the girls 
came back. The shell-shocked ones who had gone crazy. 

Crawford: Did they recover? 

Altman: There were facilities for them. They were goners. They lived 
and they ate, that was all. 

Crawford: Where did they stay? 

Altman: On the peninsula was the hospital. When they came down the 
ramp that was an evening you'd never forget. 

Crawford: And you played for them? 

Altman: Yes. We played the band so loud at that time, and we played 
nothing but fine music. 

Crawford: But they were very afflicted, weren't they? 
Altman: Oh, it was sad, unspeakably sad. 

*Material from interview conducted by Caroline Crawford. 


Crawford: Why particularly the WACs? 

Altman: Because one didn't associate girls with wars. World War II used 
women in large numbers for the first time. Before it was always 
only the males who served. 

Crawford: I have some pictures of the band marching down Market Street. 

Altman: Yes. We had a very big band. The strength of a band was 

supposed to be twenty-eight. But our band leader, who was a real 
old army man, finagled it so we had always about forty-two 
players. Once in a while, somebody got upset in the headquarters 
that the band is over-strength to let about a dozen or so people 
out. But our band leader was always so clever. He got around 
it; we would serenade the general on his birthday things like 
that. He knew how to act. 

I was in a good situation anyway because if the band would 
have been shipped out we would have become a medical band. 
However, I would not have gone with the band because I was one of 
the extras; I would have been assigned to one of the large 
transport boats as the chaplain's assistant. So from that point 
of view, I was in a fortunate position. 

But while it went on, it was still a very harrowing time, 
and it was awful even so. We were grateful as long as we stayed 
here. Half of the band were hillbillies from the Ozarks people 
whom I had never met before. They were so different the way 
they behaved and acted. 

For instance, there was one who went with a girl, but that 
girl when she could get a higher-ranking man dropped him like he 
never existed. He was so unhappy that our conductor, who was an 
officer, gave him a ticket for a ball game. That made him so 
happy that he forgot all about the girl. [laughter] 

Then we had one fellow who cut our hair. He was supposed to 
charge no more than twenty-five or fifty cents, but he always 
demanded more. Nobody said anything. All characters.** 

**End of Crawford material. 


Propaganda Leaflets and Other Sidelines 

Glaser: I think you mentioned that while you were in the army you wrote an 
analysis of the natural character of the German people. 

Altman: I did, and what was a little even more valuable was I made model 
leaflets to be thrown. 

Glaser: Propaganda leaflets? 

Altman: Yes, and I wrote those bilingual. 

Glaser: Were you taken out of the band to do this specialized work? 

Altman: No, I did that on my own. But I did a lot of other things while I 
was in the band. 

Glaser: Tell me about them, please. 

Altman: Well, these things which we just spoke about, and then I played a 
lot of piano. At that time I had a very good memory; I could 
almost memorize instantly. There was one piece called Repartee 
by a composer whose last name I think was Bennett. That was a 
jazzy piece. I got it there; I didn't have any knowledge of it 
before. I played the piano like a real big solo, and the band 
accompanied me. We had a first rehearsal on a Tuesday, I remember, 
and on Tuesday afternoon I learned it from memory. On Wednesday we 
played it together with the bandleader, and I played it also from 
memory. Whenever they wanted it, I would sit down and play it. 

I have to say one cannot praise the American mentality enough. 
How the boys reacted you don't have to say anything. I said 
nothing about it, and they were really taken by that. They were 
very easy going from then on; it was quite important. 

Glaser: What gave you the idea to write the analysis of the character of 

the German people and your propaganda leaflets? What gave you the 
idea to do these on your own, and to whom did you give this 

Altman: The reason was that whatever I have done I was always possessed by 
that mania, almost, that it must be an addition; it must be a 
contribution. The word "contribution" is the main word. I have 
done it always. Also when I played the organ recitals, I have 
always felt if I cannot make a contribution, I don't do it at all. 
I would just add to the noise. I felt I would steal from the 
people who came to hear it. And something of that sort was the 


Altman: The person to whom I gave it was a captain of army intelligence, 

Captain Metow was his name. He had an office downtown, and I went 
to see him. I turned it over to him to mail it or not to mail it 
whatever he decided, whatever he thought it was worth to 
headquarters in Washington. Something must have been done because 
I do have a thank-you letter from Dag Hammarskjold, a very top man. 

Glaser: He was secretary-general of the United Nations. 

Altman: Yes. 

Glaser: Was he in the U.S. Intelligence at the time? 

Altman: No. That must have been something else, because I have a letter 
from him. But I have some things I did get about the things I 
wrote. I have it upstairs. 

Glaser: So you know the propaganda was used. 

Altman: Well, that I don't know. I'm sure it didn't hurt, but I made the 
effort in any case. 

I was at the United Nations Conference that was here in "45. 
Truman was our president then. Here was Molotov, van Sittart, some 
of the big shots. There was a band made up of the various 
categories. We had boys from the navy, from the air force, and our 
Fort Mason band also. I was chosen as one believe it or not 
clarinet player. Although I was not much of a player, having 
learned it so late in life and for only a short time. 

I sat in the opera house where the meetings took place, and I 
did see all those famous men. The most famous that comes to mind, 
of course, is Molotov. I was as close to him as I am to you 
because I could sit in the audience. They sat around. It was an 
experience which meant a great deal to me. 

Meeting with Thomas Mann 

Glaser: Was it at this time that you met Thomas Mann? 

Altman: No. Thomas Mann I met at the beginning of my army time, and on 
June 15, I think it was. Did I show you that letter? 

Glaser: Yes. 

Altman: Also the book where that is written up? 

Glaser: No. Did you meet Mr. Mann personally? 






2h June 1955 

Dear L:r. Altman, 

It rives us such pleasure to thank you most sincerely for 
your penerosity in Makinp available to the United Nations your 
great talent on the occasion of our reception last Tuesday evening 
at the California Palsce of the Legion of Honour. 

All of the delegates anc guests enjoyed your playing- enormously 
and feel that the beautiful music contributed greatly to the 
success of the occasion. 

Sincerely yours, 





Eelco N. van Kleffens 
President of the Commemorative Meetings 

L'ag Hamsarskjold 



Mr. Ludv,-ip Altioan 
1656 18th Avenue 
San Francisco, Cal. 


Altman: Indeed and right here in San Francisco. I was attracted by his 

novels and short stories while a teenager. Mann is a virtuoso in 
using the German language in an entirely novel, highly original 
way. With this unique gift he transports you into the world he 
conjures up. It is almost hypnotic, this ability to portray the 
backgrounds of time and place. Even more magical is Mann's genius 
in describing people so that you think they are standing before 
you. This cunning demonstration of verbal portrait painting, by 
the way, has brought Mann a lot of trouble because he often used 
family members and friends as models in his freely invented prose. 

Because of his towering prominence Thomas Mann became 
something of an uncrowned king and a spokesman for the many 
thousands of refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as for 
numberless others, not Jewish, victims of Nazi barbarism. Mann's 
speeches were broadcast to Germany during World War II. Mann, who 
lived from 1875 to 1955, was used to taking a stand on topics of 
the day, be they political, moral, ethical, literary, musical 
(these especially), et cetera, and it is here where the story of my 
meeting Mann comes in. 

Since the story was not told elsewhere and should be, here 
goes at long last. In June of 1943, Mann was invited to give a 
speech in our Civic Auditorium on the evils and dangers of the Nazi 
regime. A huge crowd was on hand for a standing ovation. There 
was some music, Isaac Stern, no less, played violin solos, a 
soprano sang and the organ music was provided by me. 

Having shared the program with my revered author, I felt 
encouraged to drop in on him and his wife Katia at the Fairmont 
Hotel where they were staying. Mrs. Mann did not like the idea of 
my coming up very much as it would take away precious time, but 
Thomas prevailed and a short visit was granted. This was extended 
to two hours, from 10 to 12 o'clock. The couple found out quickly 
that I was indeed thoroughly familiar with Mann's output, partly 
knowing it from memory. 

Two comments are remembered by me. I am referring to the 
quality in his writings, works which I call "in free style," like 
the novels (Buddenbrooks , Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain, et 
cetera), and on the other hand his commentaries on the problems of 
the day. I had the nerve to suggest that the first category was to 
be preferred over the second and that it would be far better to 
have still more novels from his pen than to have essays on the 
lives and doings of leaders of the past and even the present. Mann 
seemed to be a little shaken and his comment was a mere: Ja, aber 
man muss doch zu den Problemen und Ereignissen des Tages Stellung 
nehmen (Yes, but one has to take a stand to the events of the day 
after all). 


Altaian: Of far greater importance than this episode was a discussion 
regarding an article I had written on the subject, "Our great 
Symphonies Were Written by Lonely Men." This was very much in the 
thinking of Mann himself who has expressed the thought that 
creative artistry makes the artist a flop vis-a-vis the joys of a 
"normal" life. A case in point is the true story of Tchaikovsky 
and a wealthy lady friend in Russia who was so enamoured with him 
that she attended all his concerts, especially first performances, 
yet never met her idol nor seemed to have a desire to do so. 

In a handwritten letter to me, Thomas Mann confirmed that this 
story was new to him and that he found it Merkwurdig (noteworthy). 

One can imagine my joy when some time later I found that this 
story of Tchaikovsky and Madame de Tolna, as she is called in Mann's 
late novel Doktor Faustus, has become an integral section of his 
late masterpiece. In talking to the Thomas Mann Gesellschaf t this 
summer I was encouraged to put the above in verbal form to be used 
in one of the forthcoming year books of this worthy society, which 
is doing so much in keeping alive the work of German's greatest 
novelist of the first half of the twentieth century. 


Mass Meeting Against Nazi Extermination 
of Jews and Other Minorities 


1. NATIONAL ANTHEM Miss Verna Osborne 

accompanied by Ludwig Allman 



United Jewish Committee of San Francisco 

JOSEPH S. THOMPSON, Chairman of the Evening 


4. SACRED HEBREW CHANTS . . . Cantoi Ben G. Xnsowsky 

accompanied by Ludu'ig Altman 



accompanied by Lev Shorr 



9. FINALE March: God Bless America organ 





251 Keamy Street, San Francisco, Room 308 
Telephone DOuglas 5950 






Pacific Palisades. Calif. 

June 20, 1943 

Liebe- Herr Altmann, 

Nochmals Dank fuer den Aufsatz den ich mit grossen Interesse gelesen habe. Sein 
GnjndgedanKe ist sicher eine Wahrheit. Besonders frappiert hat mich die 
Geschichte von Tschaikovsky und der reichen russischen Aristrokratin, seiner 
Freundin, die er niemals gesehen hat. Ich kannte diese Geschichte nicht und 
finde sie hoechet merkwuerdig. 

Die Schrumpfunf von Schumanns Genie war wohl weniger die Folge seines 
E'-ec'uecks , als der progressiven Paralyse, von der Sie freilich nicht gut 

Es wa^ scnoer, dass Ich mich noch mit Ihnen unterhalten komte. Ich hoffe, man 
sie*it sich einmal wieder. 

Ihr e^gebener 

Thomas Mann 

Dear Mr. Altmann. 

agasin thanks for the essay, which I read with great interest. The basic idea 
is surely based on fact. I was especially intrigued by the story about 
Tchaikovsky and the wealthy Russian lady aristrocat, his friend, whom he has 
neve- met. I did not know of this story and find it most peculiar. 

The rec-ess-ion of Schumann's genius was probably less a consequence of his 
marital bliss and the result of the progressive paralysis, of which you could 
not easily speak. 

It was nice for me to be able to talk with you. I hope, we see each other 
again in future. 

Yours truly 
Thomas Mann 



Cantor Reuben R. Rinder 

Glaser: I assume following your discharge you immediately returned to your 
position with Temple Emanu-El. Over the years you had a very close 
relationship with Cantor Reuben Rinder. His wife has been 
interviewed for our office, but I'd like to hear from you about 
Cantor Rinder "s personality and what he was like to work with. 

Altman: He was a very dominant person in the temple, and how I got there, 
it was right away when I came to New York. When the people heard 
that I was going to San Francisco, they would automatically say, 
"Oh, then you must meet Cantor Rinder." The main musician in the 
Jewish field in New York at that time was Abraham Binder. Do you 
know that name? 

Glaser: No. 

Altman: You never heard of it. He was a good musician, very instrumental 
in the advancement of Jewish liturgical music. He was also a 
political power. The situation of the Jewish people in New York is 
unique in the entire world because it's like a complete empire in 
itself and by itself. Two million Jewish people almost at that 
time in greater New York, and they thought of themselves almost 
like they had a king, and rabbis all over the place, and really no 
need to go outside if you didn't want to. 

Binder also manipulated almost if the word is correct many 
things: that people were engaged or not engaged and where played 
and all that. He said, "Cantor Rinder ist ein Lieblicher Mann," a 
lovely person. That translation is not quite correct. And so I 
went to Cantor Rinder, and he introduced me to Wallace Sabin who 
was the organist of Temple Emanu-El. Sabin was a Christian, 
educated in London, the Royal College, a regular Episcopalian, who, 
however, played in the Christian Science church, at one of them in 
San Francisco, and conducted the Lowering Club. That was a club of 
male singers, all voluntary of course. 


Altman: Sabin was about sixty-nine years old, and he was definitely a very 
nervous man. His hands always shook and he was not too much given 
to practice anymore or to learn new pieces. He got along more or 
less by just diddling improvising it was called. A wonderful 
person and once evidently a very fine, even outstanding, musician. 
I became an unofficial assistant of Wallace Sabin, and 1 could 
practice on the organ as long as I wanted and as much because he 
did not do it anymore. So I sat with him at the Shabbat services, 
and whenever something difficult to play came along, I would play 
it and just move on the bench. 

Sabin died suddenly while conducting a concert of his choral 
group, the day after I think it was. I got a phone call from 
Cantor Rinder saying "Ludwig, such and such happened to Mr. Sabin. 
(I think it was a Wednesday or a Thursday.) Now you continue just 
like you have been doing." So I got the job actually by default. 
I was there at the right moment, and there was a need for a 
replacement. And the fact that I was young, that I was Jewish, 
that I was a refugee. But they did not give me the salary which 
Sabin got. It was way down. 

The financial situation of organists in general is not good; 
it's very bad. I did well, but only because I did an enormous 
amount of musical work. Whenever I look into the diary of that 
period I cannot believe my eyes. I worked literally all seven days 
and three to four evenings all my life until now. Now its of 
course totally different. 

So that's how it began, and with the cantor I had no 
particular problem because Cantor Rinder trusted me. And his 
strength was not in the chanting; he had some vocal problems which 
made it necessary for him to give up singing, and so he evolved a 
way of speaking over an organ background. Most of the cantor ial 
solos were sung by a chorus member, usually by a non-Jewish chorus 
member, for many years primarily by Stanley Noonan, a wonderful 
person with a gorgeous voice and superb artistry. That his 
outstanding, loyal and long service could be left unrecognized was 
one of the few disappointments I experienced at Emanu-El. Often we 
mused: If only Stan could be Jewish, what a career he would have 
made. Cantor Rinder had a standard reply for these thoughts: "The 
others deserve something good, too." 

Altman: Cantor Rinder made a lasting contribution to Jewish music in 

commissioning illustrious Jewish composers to write new settings 
of the liturgy. He usually stipulated that there would be an added 
part, all recited, not sung, and with instrumental background. 
This would give the cantor the opportunity to participate in the 
service. This spoken part was called recitant. 


Glaser: Did his difficulty show up as far back as when you joined Temple 
Emanu-El in 1937? 

Altman: Yes, even before. The great services for which he is responsible, 
by Ernest Bloch and Darius Milhaud, contain whole sections of 
prayers which would normally have been sung by the cantor but in 
this instance are spoken by the recitant with background music 
mostly for organ. Cantor Kinder "s main contribution, musically 
speaking, is the commissioning of four services: Sacred Service 
of Ernest Bloch, Sacred Service of Darius Milhaud, Sacred 
Service of Marc Lavry of Israel, and three beautiful psalms by 
Paul Ben-Haim of Israel. All of those were eventually given either 
in premier performance in Europe or later in our temple. 

Glaser: Did you have a personal relationship with Cantor Kinder and 
possibly Mrs. Kinder? 

Altman: Oh, yes, of the most friendly kind. The first time when I played 

for the wedding of Meta Kinder, their daughter, which was about the 
most beautiful wedding the temple ever had, at least in my 
experience. We had the whole temple decorated with trees and 
with flowers when spring came. I never saw the temple as beautiful 
as on that occasion. Frequently we were invited to their home; 
they were very nice to me and Emmy. 

Cantor Kinder had the rare gift of making you feel good 
whenever you came to him with a problem. He used a special system 
in auditioning singers by always praising them first for their 
potentials and then point out their shortcomings. This he called: 
"You have to let them down gently." 

Mrs. M. C. Sloss and Mrs. Marcus Koshland 

Glaser: Would you tell me about Mrs. M. C. Sloss? 

Altman: Before we do that I would like to say a word also about Mrs. 

Kinder. She was also brilliant. She looked lovely, was a very 
lovely lady, hospitable and a tremendous supporter and support for 
Rob. Rob did have problems, particularly with some of the rabbis 
who couldn't accept his overpowering personality and his popularity 
with some of the very influential people. Perhaps also the fact of 
the one thing he could not do, namely chant the services, which 
after all is the main raison d'etre, as the French call it. There 
were problems, and one was aware of them. Yet the cantor always 
rose above them and in a way won out. 


Altman: Now about Mrs. M. C. Sloss: Yes, the first thing I knew about her 
was a little foreboding. In December 1937, when Wallace Sabin died 
rather suddenly, she was out of town. Cantor Kinder said, "That is 
too bad because we would really need her okay for you to stay here 
as organist. Now she is out of town. I'll take a chance, and I 
hope she will be satisfied when I tell her about my engaging you." 
Luckily she was and she was very nice to me; she was helpful. She 
was actually what I thought of as the First Lady of San Francisco, 
the First Jewish Lady, certainly. She was very, very important in 
the temple. 

I will never forget how our then-Rabbi Reichert (who was very 
nice to Emmy and to me) always went up to her after every service 
to find out if she liked the sermon and how much she liked it. And 
it was very important that she liked it because she did not mince 
words. I found frequently that elderly women of that kind, who are 
well-educated, very intelligent, and outspoken, are really very, 
very important to the top hierarchy, and how much they depended on 
their good will and appreciation. 

Glaser: I understand Mrs. Sloss used to have musical evenings in her home, 
particularly at Hanukkah and Passover, in which you played. 

Altman: Actually it was at Mrs. Marcus Koshland's home. Mrs. Koshland and 
Mrs. Sloss were very close friends. Mrs. Koshland had an organ in 
her home, in that very large mansion which you probably have seen; I 
think it's on Washington Street. 

Glaser: Le Petit Trianon? 

Altman: Is that what it's called? 

Glaser: At that time I think it was; it was supposed to be a copy of it. 

Altman: Well, in any case, yes, we had it every year at Hanukkah time with 
the famous mulled wine. There was always a musical, and we always 
used the organ. That was a player organ; it was hard to play 
because all the keys were worn out and played at the slightest 
touch. We usually had music by Handel, the Judas Maccabeus , and 
other things. It was very festive, very lovely. When Mrs. 
Koshland died, one of the sons called me over and as we sat at the 
organ bench he said, "What should I do with the instrument now?" 

I answered, "Why not give it to the temple." So he said, 
"It's a good idea." And so the instrument was taken over to the 
Meyer Memorial Auditorium at the temple. He gave in addition a 
large sum of money, so we could modernize the touch (very 
necessary) and add a stop to it. The organ is still being used on 
the High Holidays for the overflow for the final service, for the 
N' ilah service. It's a very nice instrument with a lovely sound. 


Altman: Mrs. Sloss tragically fell into a coma for a long time; she was 

living in a downtown hotel. One remembers the good years when she 
was younger. She was terrific, a highly-intelligent born leader. 

Glaser: In our first interview you said, "Many times the organist outdraws 
the minister. Sometimes there is almost a conflict and the 
organist has to be diplomatic." Did you find that true at Temple 

Altman: No, because my position at Emanu-El is actually a little different 
from what the general idea is. The general idea is now that my 
work at Temple Emanu-El is predominant almost to the exclusion of 
other activity. But this is only now since I'm an emeritus and 
only now play at the Legion of Honor as co-organist with John 
Fenstermaker, formerly with Newton Pashley, formerly with Richard 
Purvis, and give some lessons and work on musical things not 
connected with the temple. But really during most of my life now 
I've been an organist for about fifty-five years at least I did 
more outside the temple than in the temple itself. About two- 
thirds of my activity was outside one-third was here at the 

Relationships with Rabbis 

Glaser: Does that mean that you didn't have that much contact with the 
various rabbis, starting with Rabbi Reichert? 

Altman: No. Instead I had a number of part-time jobs, the temple being the 
most important but by no means the only one. It accounted for 
about one-third of my total time, energy and income. For this 
reason I had no desire nor ambition to try and make Emanu-El full 
time. I was worried that the congregation might get tired of 
hearing the same organ grinder year after year. By my being the 
official organist of the San Francisco Symphony, by my being organ 
soloist of the Pops in the Civic Auditorium almost every summer, by 
hearing of my being engaged in London, New York, Boston, Zurich, 
Oslo, Berlin, Munich, Bern, Canterbury, Burmingham, Lausanne, 
Montreux, et cetera, of a growing number of publications my local 
audience might hopefully think: "Why change since our boy with the 
curious initials L.A. seems to be considered right there on the top 
with the best. 

No, for me it was the opposite. For me it was better not to 
be quite so involved in the temple and have more time and energy 
for the outside work, which in a way meant just as much and maybe 


Glaser ; 


Did that keep you from being involved with some of the politics 
that were going on? 

I don't think we had politics at the temple, 
bono" (for whose benefit) describes it best. 

The Latin reply "Cui 




Al tman : 

I know that there was a very unhappy situation with Rabbi Reichert 
when he made anti-Zionist statements. 

I think Rabbi Reichert was an unhappy man in general. From what I 
heard, he liked certain people, not necessarily because they were 
terribly prominent. Luckily, Emmy and I belonged to that category. 
To give you an example: he would make remarks like, "Oh, the High 
Holy Days are coming up. I wish they were behind us, that we had 
done them already." This, of course, is an unimportant thing, but 
it indicates in some ways his basic attitude was too negative. - 
That indicates an unhappy attitude. 

He was a brilliant man, and he had also a number of absolutely 
fabulous sermons. To judge him by his anti-Zionist stance only is 
wrong. It was part of the overall spectrum of Jewish attitudes 
towards Israel. The Jewish people by and large, in the overall, 
did not appreciate his attitude at all, which I think he changed 
too. Ultimately I think his was a tragic life, the more to be 
regretted because he was so outstanding in many ways. 

You played in churches also,' was the relationship between clergy 
and organist similar to Temple Emanu-El? 

I did indeed play in churches all my life, from 1937-1982. 
However, these were branches of the Christian Science movement 
which did not have ministers but rather lay leaders, called first 
and second readers and changed every few years. There were no 
choirs but one vocalist, called soloist. 

There exists a good relationship between church and synagogue 
in San Francisco. I was always welcome to play in many different 
churches, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran, et cetera. 
And by the same token we at Emanu-El have a Christian choir, as 
have Sherith Israel. My successor at our Temple, Michael Seccow, a 
splendid organist and choir conductor, combines his position at St. 
Mary's the Virgin with the temple. 

The situation and position differs in every case, and the 
title reflects it. The church musician may be called just plain 
organist, or organist-choir director, or musical director, or 
minister of music. Prestige and salary depend to some extent on 
it. Forward-looking religious institutions prefer ambitious, 
active musicians, even to the point of competitive excellence. 







Altman : 

There the top musician must use tact, and judgment, so as not to 
outshine the religious hierarchy obviously. [laughter] Perform a 
little hocus-pocus. 

What does that mean, hocus-pocus? 

Well, just good judgment. 


Yes. Diplomacy is a good word for it. 

When Rabbi Reichert left, Rabbi Alvin I. Fine took his place. Did 
you have a close relationship with him? 

Yes, a very pleasant one, and there I must say, not only with Alvin 
Fine but all the rabbis. It was a great help to me that I was 
lucky to get good reviews on my recitals at the temple, and 
probably it helped my standing at Emanu-El that members saw me, 
their organist, on stage year after year. 

What was Rabbi Fine like as a man? 

Well, when he first came everybody swooned. He was a very 
handsome young male, not even married, and that first time when he 
entered the temple, you thought a saint had come. He retained a 
great deal of that adulation. He had a beautiful speaking voice, a 
fairly deep voice, and his sermons were spiritual. He made a great 
success. It was too bad he contracted a heart problem which made 
him decide to quit the rabbinate. He felt that he couldn't do 
justice to it. I remember when he spoke to me saying that despite 
the congregation wanting to keep him under all circumstances, and 
giving him whatever he wanted, he felt that the congregation 
deserved someone who could provide total service. 

He added, "Ludwig, that might be good enough for somebody else 
but it is not good enough for me." So that's how he left. I was 
sorry. He was a very loving and inspiring leader. Like Cantor 
Rinder he had the gift to lift your spirits in talking to you. You 
felt reassured in his presence, the proper term is charisma, is it 

It certainly is. Rabbi Irving Hausman followed Rabbi Fine, 
only there for three years. 

He was 

If that long. At the most, maybe not even that long. His case was 
unfortunate because he was a fine, knowledgeable man. He had a 
strange voice a voice like I'd never really heard elsewhere. The 
job is immensely strenuous at the temple, as you can imagine. Some 
felt it was too strenuous. He got ill, actually, during the High 
Holy Days and just had to stop conducting and leading the services. 


Altman: There were no two ways about it. It was a sad thing because he 

left a congregation in Sacramento, which evidently he could cover 
with much less strain. But the Temple Emanu-El was too over 
whelming for him. Now it's different because we have more rab 
binical personnel it's more divided. Is it easier now? I don't 
know. We have more activity than at Rabbi Hausman's time, so it's 
hard to answer. 

Glaser: Yes, there are two assistant rabbis. When Rabbi Asher started in 
1968, did you have a closer relationship with him because he was 
also from Germany like yourself? 

Altman: Ultimately the relationship between depends on how well an organist 
gets along with his cantor. I was fortunate in that both my 
cantors, Rinder and Portnoy, respected my musical background and 
general musicianship. However, there was a strong possibility of 
conflict because the organist may surpass the cantor in strict 
musical knowledge, putting him or her onto the offensive. The 
possibility may have prevented many a good musician who is Jewish 
from becoming a temple organist. Even for so prominent a position 
as the one at our temple, no Jewish applicant could be found. 
Three, four times I had hopes to have made a catch yet each time 
other professions were chosen by my potential Jewish organists. 

As for rabbis, the more interest they have in the music of the 
opera house and the symphony, particularly chamber music, that is 
always up the same alley as an organist like me. I am immensely 
interested in that and really spend much more in the secular side 
of music than religious music. Then I always have plenty to talk 
about to a rabbi. 

Glaser: Are you saying that there were one or two rabbis who had more of an 
appreciation for the organ music than others? 

Altman: One who had a great deal of appreciation was the late Rabbi 

[Elliot] Grafman, who was our rabbi only for less than a year. He 
was immensely interested in the organ. He was retired by then but 
came to help us. He was with us for about a year, I think. 

Glaser: Was he between Rabbi Hausman and Rabbi Asher? 

Altman: I think so. And that was, of course, something very special. He 
was a highly intelligent man who really worked with the organist. 


LUDWIG ALTMAN . . . Organist 

"One of the greatest organists I have ever heard." 










Ludwig Altman, 1937, 

Ludwig Altman and the San Francisco Boy's Chorus, circa 1953. 

Concert in Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, December 13, 1954. Carman Dragon 
conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Sponsered by Standard Oil 
of California now Chevron Corporation. 

Ludwig Altman, Marc Lavry, Cantor Kinder, Edward Lawton. Stanley Noonan, Louis 
Heilbron on the occasion of the Premiere of Lavry 's Sacred Service. March 11, 

Ludwig Altman and Darius Milhaud 

Ludwig Altman: A Musician's Life 

Interviewed by Caroline Crawford 



[Interview 1: 


March 3, 1988] ## 
Caroline Crawford 

Crawford: Let us begin by talking about your musical life as a young 

person. When did you first realize that you wanted to have a 
life in music? 

Altman: I was interested in music as far back as I can remember. My 

talent was supported from the start by my parents. I remember 
the old lady who came to the house to give me piano lessons, and 
I will mention her name, because I think it's the only time the 
poor woman will be mentioned by anybody! She was Fraulein 
Preuss; I liked her very much. A gentle soul; a tall woman who 
was elated to have me as a pupil because I was probably the one 
star of her life as a piano teacher. She just had beginners, and 
while I was a beginner then I didn't remain one for too long. 

She taught me the fundamentals and I learned to read music 
and developed rather quickly. That in a way was her undoing, 
because my mother felt after a while that I had learned every 
thing I could from her and made a change. 

Dr. Edmund Nick 

Altman: This was a good idea, because my next teacher was Dr. Edmund 

Nick, a phenomenal musician and, I would say, a genius. He was a 
composer of some semi-popular music, although he could write 

##This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has 
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 184. 


Al tman : 

Al tman: 

Al tman : 

serious compositions! too. He liked to work in cabarets, which 
was a very big thing in Germany at that time, and he had a very 
famous artistic collaborator, an author named Erich Kastner. 

Kastner was one of the most popular authors of the Weimar 
Republic. He was also antagonistic toward the Nazi regime. When 
the Nazis came in, he survived mostly because he was not Jewish. 
Yet he was so disliked by them that they sort of suppressed his 
writings. Those two men worked together well, and were very 

Dr. Nick married the daughter of the president of Silesia, 
which was a part of Prussia. The capital was Breslau, where I 
was born. This marriage of Dr. Nick aided him in his career, 
because the family was of the highest standing in Silesia. His 
wife, Kaethe, was lovely, a very handsome woman and an excellent 
soprano. She and her husband gave many song recitals together 
which were very well received. Dr. Nick was a superb 

Did Dr. Nick compose for the cabarets? 

Were his compositions for cabaret strongly anti-Nazi? And did he 

They were partially anti-Nazi, and he did survive, yes. Both Dr. 
Nick and Kastner. I saw Dr. Nick in Munich after the Third Reich 
was over. He loved to tell about that nightmare. 

Let me give you an idea of how idiotic everything done by 
the Nazis was unbelievably cruel and horrible. You know that 
Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream is always given with the 
music of Mendelssohn, and when the Nazis wanted to give it in 
Berlin, they would not use that music, because Mendelssohn the 
name alone did him in was a "non-Aryan," to use their 

So the top people, I think it was the office of Goebbels, 
asked Dr. Nick to compose new music for Midsummer Night ' s Dream. 
Nick said to me at the time that this was completely crazy, that 
he could never even approach Mendelssohn, but that he had to obey 
orders. He needed to be on tolerably reasonable terms with the 
Nazis because his wife, the daughter of the former president of 
Silesia, was partly Jewish. Either one of the grandparents or 
aunts was Jewish, and she needed protection. 


Altman: That was all in the beginning of the Nazi regime, when they had 

just started with their awful measures against the Jews. Later on 
it was much more severe, but by then I was luckily in the United 

Crawford: Let's talk about Dr. Nick and his system of teaching piano. 

Altman: He was a lousy piano teacher and a marvelous music teacher. As a 
teacher I was influenced by him. To give you an idea of how he 
taught, I think I have the book here. He had a list of all the 
composers whose works I was to study. His idea of teaching was a 
comprehensive one: that I had to get an overview of music and 
learn an outstanding composition by each composer so that 1 had a 
good general grounding in the history of music. 

I profited very much from that, although he never considered 
the practical aspects too much for instance, he never had me 
memorize music. He thought that was not important. 

Crawford: He stressed ear development? 

Altman: Yes. He wanted that and an understanding of the style of various 
composers so that I could recognize individual composers just by 
listening to their music. 

After the whole Hitler regime was done with, we saw Dr. Nick 
in Munich, where he lived. Emmy was with me, and since he was an 
anti-Nazi he was given very high positions right after the war 
ended by the Deutsche Bundes Republik. That is the official 
name of West Germany now. 

We saw the Nicks in the 1960s, and when I think of that 
reunion it brings back a story that moves me just to think 

I don't know if we did the right thing then or not. They 
had invited us to their home. We went and met his wife. She 
suffered from a lung illness which is contagious and we knew it 
to be contagious, but she said no, we did not have to worry 
because the doctors told her it was not contagious. 

We were both very afraid, and I said to Emmy, "I won't eat 
anything here." Frau Dr. had prepared a big dish of fresh 
strawberries with whipped cream, and although I am very fond of 
those sweets, we didn't want to get ill, and we didn't eat any. 
She was very insistent that we should have some, and you know 
they didn't have very much at that time, it was before the 
material improvements, and we left feeling very badly. We never 
knew if we did the right thing. Medically, yes, but humanly, 
perhaps, no. 


Crawford: Did you see them again? 

Altman: Yes, yes. She died shortly after that first get together, but we 
saw him several times. They had a daughter whom we also saw 
several times afterward. She is an author and has many, many 
books published. I have quite a few of them. 

Crawford: I am curious as to why, if he had been overtly anti-Nazi and his 
wife was Jewish or partly Jewish, they were not bothered by the 
Nazis . 

Altman: Everything was done by law. The Germans are inclined that way 

and that was in the Nick's favor, because if the law said he was 
to be left alone, he was left alone. 

Crawford: Let's move on then to Mr. von Pozniak. How did you come to him? 

Altman: Dr. Nick became very involved during the Weimar Republic. He was 
put in charge of Silesian broadcasting. In Europe there is only 
one radio station in a district, all financed by those who 
purchase radios and are required to pay a monthly fee. As I 
mentioned, radio is an important institution in Germany. 

So he was given charge of the radio in Breslau, which 
covered the entire province, in the neighborhood of six or eight 
million people. Breslau had a population of about 640,000. 

Dr. Nick was excellent in that job, which was so demanding 
that he had to kick out all his students except me. He would 
give me a lesson whenever he had time, but it was very irregular. 

When he went on vacation he liked to go to the sea he 
would say, "Ludwig, I'm going to go on vacation. Next time you 
come, bring me some money." But he never said how much or how 
little! [laughter] 

Whatever I gave him, he was satisfied and invariably he was 
in good humor the last lesson before a vacation and when he came 
back he was fresh. And you know, German teachers are not as nice 
as Americans. 

Crawford: More authoritarian? 

Altman: Yes, and more given to moods; that was the worst part. Do you 
know the book Buddenbrooks , by Thomas Mann? 

Crawford: Yes. 

Altman: You can see this at the very end when he talks about the young 
fellow, Hanno. That is a description of a typical school in 
Germany, and to some extent, it is still so. 


Crawford: You mentioned before that you were instrumental in Mann's writing 
in one of his novels. 

Altman: Yes. That is almost a chapter in itself. 

Crawford: Yes, we should save it for later. For the moment, let's 
concentrate on your musical education. 

Bronislaw von Pozniak 




Yes. My mother particularly felt that I couldn't profit from Dr. 
Nick any more. He didn't have the time, although he did have the 
interest, and through his being the head of the radio station in 
Breslau, he engaged me several times to play short piano recitals 
on the radio. I have some of the ads and the announcements here. 
Reviews of recitals I played fifty years ago! 

So my mother took me to Bronislaw von Pozniak, the most 
renowned teacher in Breslau. She was reaching for the highest, 1 
think, because he made his living as a teacher and he only gave 
four lessons a day. He said it was so strenuous that he could 
not do justice teaching more than that. 

Was he a concert artist? 

Well, yes and no. He wanted to be a soloist, and then something 
terrible happened to him. He forgot the music during one of his 
recitals, and that you must not do. It scared him so much that 
he gave up being a soloist and became the pianist in a trio, 
because there you didn't have to memorize. 

He had very good players with him. The cellist, as I told 
you, was Piatigorsky, who mentions von Pozniak in his short 
autobiography, My Cello and !_. 

How did his system differ from Dr. Nick's? 

Completely! In the first place, everything had to be ready for 
performance. Whatever you learned was memorized instantly and 
performed in public. 

If you looked at a score on which Dr. Nick criticized my 
playing, it was full of very musical notes, and Pozniak did very 
little of that. He didn't insist on meticulous fingering, but he 
was a genius in his way; and how he did that I cannot fathom now. 


Altman: When I came to him, he said: "I will not teach the boy myself, 
but I will give him to one of my assistants to my main 
assistant." That was a lady who was also acting as his 

But when he heard me play, he said, "No, this one I accept 
myself right away." And then as he took me he said, "Ludwig, 
there are two ways you can prepare to reach the heights for which 
you should prepare yourself. Either you go the long way, point 
by point, with only exercises now but much more music later on, 
or the easier way. I give you the bigger things now. Which one 
do you choose?" 

Now he had these old studies that he had prepared in Poland, 
and I opted for the long way. He was Polish, as I mentioned, but 
not Jewish, which was remarkable because to be a musician in the 
eastern countries means usually to be Jewish as well. There are 
many, many famous ones. I think you know the names: Heifetz; 
Naoum Blinder, Mischa Elman, Nathan Milstein. Rubinstein, of 

Crawford: Yes. Were your parents interested in a musical career for you? 
You were the first son, and that meant a certain entitlement for 
you as an artist. 

Altman: Yes. Well, I always said I was too dumb for anything else but 

music. [laughs] But my musical interest was so pronounced there 
was never a question about it. 

Crawford: What if you had been a second son? 
Altman: That would have been a dilemma! 

Arthur Altmann: A Musical Uncle 

Crawford: You haven't yet talked about your uncle Arthur, the musical one. 

Altman: Well, Uncle Arthur lived in Konigsberg, quite far from Breslau, 
but he came for vacations to us sometimes in the Silesian 
mountains, which are particularly lovely and very popular. The 
highest mountain was roughly 1500 meters, about the same as the 
Black Forest in altitude. It was very popular and we went there 
all the time to hike and walk. 

On one of those rather primitive vacations, my uncle and his 
wife came and we spoke of nothing but music. He was a Kapell 
meister that is opera conductor for the opera in Konigsberg, 
and he was also organist at the Hofkirche. 


Altman: Hof is "royal," and he taught in a school and also composed. His 
compositions were well crafted and were good, but he was not 
avant garde, and never really made it as a composer. 

I saw him maybe two times when he came to Silesia. He gave 
me some scores, and I showed him some of my very early composi 
tions, which were a disgrace. I had done them when I was about 
fifteen years old. He wrote me that he wanted me to study 
Wagner's Tristan and Parsifal. Even today Tristan is very modern 
in its chromaticism, and he wanted me to be more "modern" I was 
too old-fashioned even for him! So he gave me the scores of 
those and other music as well. 

The Music and Anti-Semitism of Richard Wagner 

Crawford: Do you like Wagner, and did you like to play his works? 

Altman: Yes, I love Wagner. Oh, I detest him as a person. He was 

unbelievable. You know, he wrote all that anti-Semitic junk. 
That didn't hinder him from being friendly with individual Jews, 
though, particularly if they could be of service to him at that 

Crawford: What was the basis of his anti-Semitism? 

Altman: It almost cannot be explained. Some time I would like to talk to 
a psychiatrist about his aversion to the Jewish people, almost a 
physical aversion. How that can be in a man of phenomenal human 

Altman: If you read the libretto of Die Meistersinger , Wagner had an 
insight into human nature that is tremendous. He had such 
understanding of the goodness that can be in man. 

Crawford: Hans Sachs. 

Altman: Yes, Hans Sachs is such a good person, and he evaluates human 

nature in such a way particularly in his monologues. "Vanity, 
vanity, all is vanity." It all goes back to the Old Testament. 

How a man who has this understanding can be so diametrically 
different in his diatribes against Jews. He wrote about this 
twice: First in the 1850s, I think, and once more in the late 
'60s. It's about Judaism in music, simply Das Judentum jjfi der 
Musik. I have it right here. 


Altman: But I don't have an answer yet, and I really would like to know 
how those two things can be combined in one brain. 

Crawford: Is it nowhere in his music? 
Altman: No. It's a totally different man! 

Crawford: Doesn't it relate to his philosophy of hierarchy? Gods versus 
mortals; some sort of super race? 

Altman: It might. If there isn't a book about it, there should be one. 

More About Bronislaw von Pozniak 

Altman: Anyway, back to Pozniak. He made me play at his student recitals 
and that was like a carrot for me. Before one of these, a 
student got cold feet, three weeks before the recital, and so 
Pozniak had an opening he needed to fill. She was supposed to 
play three of the Moments Musicaux by Schubert, and one couldn't 
play only three and not all six, so who was the pupil to do the 
other three? 

So Pozniak said to me, "Do you think you can learn these 
three in three weeks?" I said, "Yes." So I was given that task, 
and I played them from memory successfully, and I was then a real 
in-man. I became the "third desk" and the next year I played the 
St. Francis Legends of Liszt. The best student an assistant to 
Pozniak was Josef Wagner. I have a composition of his here, a 
very good musician, and there is a love story there. 

There was a young lady, a writer, who was in love with a 
modern dancer, and I was his accompanist in Breslau. He did not 
return the love of this lady, and as she wanted to make him 
jealous, she started to flirt with Josef Wagner. But what 
happened was that these two fell in love with each other! 
[laughter] They got married. It's the old story. 

Anyway, I played the Legends f St. Francis of Liszt the 
following year and my last year with Pozniak I did the Brahms F 
minor Sonata, opus 5. Then my mother thought I wouldn't amount 
to much as a pianist because there were too many talented 
pianists in Breslau for me to earn a living. She thought it 
would be much better to get an academic degree and have the 
possibility to be engaged as a musical employee. 


The following excerpt has been translated from Breslauer Zeitung. 
September 1929 (see marked passages, page 78b) . 

Ludwig Altmann comes closest to the concept of an artistic 
interpreter. He already plays the "Legend of St. Francis" with a 
responsible self -assuredness, i.e., he elevated himself above the subject 
to come forth with his own style and interpretation. Of course this was 
not true for Lizst, whose adequate rendition reflected only the flashy 
facade of the piece. Yet, aside from well -modulated coloration and some 
flashy moments, there evidenced itself in the playing by Mr. Altmann a 
sensitivity ready to be developed for poetic penetration of the subject, 
bringing its content to life through imaginative creativity. With the 
"Sermon to the Birds," which can easily drift into reproach, as well as 
with the "Wavepromenade , " which is often misinterpreted with elemental 
surges of power, this interpreter was able to provide a deeper meaning so 
that the listener remained musically involved and mentally challenged, in 
spite of the length of the pieces. In view of his young age, such a 
favorable test should evoke promising hope for the long-term development 
of Mr. Altmann. 






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Al tman : 

Al tman : 

Crawford ; 


So the idea was to go to Berlin, because the University there was 
fabulous, and the State Academy for Church and School Music would 
teach me the right music, so that I could because a teacher of 
music in the public schools. 

So I went to Berlin, 
had a fit. 

Von Pozniak took that very badly. He 

He wanted you to be a pianist. 

Yes, and stay with him until I was ready. 

You had gotten very good reviews for your playing in Breslau. 

Yes, definitely. Von Pozniak had taught me some of the great 
pieces. I could play the Brahms Sonata and the Appassionata and 
Emperor Concerto of Beethoven, the E-flat major Concerto of 
Liszt. All the blockbusters. He was crazy, because where would 
I ever play them? But I must say that he insisted on getting a 
really first-class technique, and whatever I still have from 
those glorious years when I was doing all those numbers, I owe to 

You did a lot of those big virtuoso pieces. 
Widor and other great French works. 

I know you did the 

Yes, that was a particularly difficult one, but I could play them 
all, piano music and later the organ stuff, as well as his 
Emperor Concerto. 

Musical Training and Experience in Breslau* 

Altman: As I always loved the scholarly side of music, I became an eager 
student of German languages and of musicology at the University 
of Breslau. The Music Department was small, perhaps a handful of 
professors and instructors; all however of high quality and fine 
reputation. The head of the department was a Dr. Arnold Schmitz, 
a young, up-to-date and interesting musician, who to his 
discredit became later an ardent supporter of the Nazi regime. 
After the war he became a professor again, this time at the 
University of Mainz. 

*This section was inserted by Mr. Altman when he reviewed his 


Altman: Of even much greater influence on me was an instructor in the 
Breslau Music Department, Dr. Peter Epstein. His modest title 
was Privatdozent (private tutor). I participated in his seminars 
and attended his classes. At this particular time the study of 
Renaissance music was in vogue, which meant that we had to learn 
to read and to perform music in all the different clefs of the 
notation of that time. It was a genuine compliment when Dr. 
Epstein told me not to come any more since I knew all the clefs 
and was able to sight-read and even to transpose them. He 
honored me further when he invited me to his home (he was married 
and they had a lovely baby). Unfortunately, he died young in 
1932 of cancer. I own some of his brilliant writings, which 1 

You can see how my early and deep experiences go back to 
school days, to the twenties. How well I remember Pablo Casals 
in his prime then, playing one of the two Brahms Sonatas; or the 
debut of the young Vladimir Horowitz with the Tchaikovsky Piano 
Concerto, a performance which made him famous overnight. Or the 
recital of the truly legendary Russian bass Chaliapin, an 
overwhelming experience remembered today in detail, some sixty- 
five years later. There was no program prepared since Chaliapin 
chose his selections spontaneously. The poor accompanist, who 
had to shlepp the entire repertoire on stage! There was, of 
course, the popular "The Flea" by Moussorgsky and the Leporello 
aria from Don Giovanni. 

The Symphony Orchestra of Breslau was just routine, although 
there were quite a number of fine individual players. The 
conductor was Georg Dohrn, a good musician and pianist but only 
so-so a conductor. It was all government-supported and everybody 
had tenure. Guest conductors shook up the orchestra 
occasionally, a welcome event. Imagine how thrilled I was in 
hearing a visiting ensemble, like the Berlin Philharmonic under 
Erich Kleiber and even more impressive the Vienna Philharmonic 
under the legendary (again that word) Felix Weingartner. The 
program as played: Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, Strauss' Don 
Juan, and at the end Schumann's First Symphony. I had enough 
courage, or you may call it overpowering curiosity, to ask one of 
the musicians why the modestly orchestrated Schumann was placed 
as the final piece after the more flamboyant other numbers. The 
reason given was that only the Schumann ended fortissimo, thus 
eliciting the strongest applause. 

Like the symphony so was the opera fairly uneven in its 
achievements and at its best when guests sang, like the famous 
tenor Leo Slezak as Tamino, or Richard Mayr as Ochs. Some works 
were given the same way at the same time. So at the opera, which 
played no less than ten months a year, there was Wagner's 
Parsifal, and at Easter there was Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. 
Finally, let me reminisce as to how moved I was in hearing the 


Altman: then first Breslau performance of Bach's last towering master 
piece, The Art p_f the Fugue . This was a performance that marked 
the absolute highlight of my life as a musician when many years 
later I could sparkplug and indeed arrange for the work to be 
given for the first time here in its entirety at my Temple Emanu- 
El in San Francisco, with a chamber orchestra of players from the 
San Francisco Symphony, I playing organ and Jan Popper 

**End of insert. 




The Entrance Examination 

Crawford: How about the examination that you took for the Academy? 

Altman: For the State Academy of Church and School Music you had to pass 
an examination. After high school} when you are seventeen or 
eighteen, you pass a final examination before the school releases 
you with a diploma. With that diploma you can enter any 
university in any discipline you choose. 

For the examination you had to play, you had to sing, and 
they were demanding in musical dictation, so you had to have a 
very good ear. 

Crawford: Did you have to set a chorale? 

Altman: Yes. We had a very famous teacher, Max Seiffert, who had many of 
his editions published, a famous man. He was uneffective and 
uninspiring as a teacher. I can still remember the ear test they 
gave me. Would you like to hear it? 

Crawford: Yes. 

Altman: It's unbelievable that I still remember it after so many years. 
But I do, because the ear test was so crucial for admission. 
[Goes to piano and plays series of notes] We had to write that 
down after hearing it three times. 

About 160 students wanted to be admitted but only thirty 
were taken. In all honesty, since I am supposed to be honest, I 
have to admit that I was not in the first group of candidates 
admitted, but only in the second batch. 


Altman: I took the examination in January, 1930. The first group started 
in the spring, the second, to which I belonged, began in the fall 
of 1930. 

This was nice because I went back to Breslau to study some 
more with von Pozniak and play in his student recital in the 
early fall of 1930. 

Crawford: Where was the best institution to be found? 

Berlin University and the Hochschule fu'r Musik 

Altman: The University taught scientific subjects in music, like the 

history of musical notation in which the celebrated Johannes Wolf 
gave a seminar every Saturday morning. 

Or the seminars of Arnold Schering, who was also the 
Ordinarius (head of department), or Friedrich Blume, who was to 
become the leading musicologist of Germany. Of the three men I 
liked Wolf the most because he opposed the Nazis and kept his 
friendships with his Jewish colleagues such as Alfred Einstein. 
Schering fell for the Nazis the hardest. 

By contrast, the Hochschule fur Musik trained highly talented 
singers and instrumentalists to become outstanding performers in 
their respective fields. In all fields except the organ. Organ 
was taught at the State Academy of Church and School Music. 

Of course, musical matters overlapped. Some organ students 
were instructed at the Hochschule, while some classes of 
Professor Kurt Sachs in the history of musical instruments his 
specialty were given at the Academy. 

Remembering Richard Strauss and Some Great Conductors 

Crawford: You were exposed to and worked with some of the greatest 
conductors of the time. What were your impressions of 
Furtwangler, Klemperer, and others? 

Altman: I heard many of them as guest conductors from other towns. For 
instance, I heard a performance of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony 
when the legendary Karl Muck brought the Hamburg Philharmonic to 
Berlin. I remember Fritz Busch from Dresden and I still remember 
how he had Alfred Cortot play the Schumann Piano Concerto in A 


Altman: I remember many Furtwangler performances. He was a very strange 
man, and he almost hypnotized people. You know, a concert in 
Germany is more like celebrating music, like a religious service. 
There was an aura of something beyond the music, and a man like 
Furtwangler elicited that feeling. 

He cast a spell over the orchestra and audience. Techni 
cally he was not the strongest conductor. Last year the Leipzig 
Orchestra came here with the German conductor Kurt Masur, and it 
was an experience like this. 

Still, we don't have that here so much; it's more prosaic I 
would say. 

Crawford: What about Richard Strauss? 

Altman: You know, Strauss was a matter-of-fact composer. His adversary 

in Germany was Hans Pfitzner, who was given to jealousy and self- 
aggrandizement and he envied Strauss his great success. 

It had taken Pfitzner many years to compose an opera, and 
Strauss could do it in as many months, and Strauss would say, "If 
composing is so hard for him, why does he do it?" 

I heard him in an afternoon concert at the Opera Unter der 
Linden, conducting Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and then his 
Zarathustra. He did the Beethoven 1-2, 1-2, without much 
emotion, but then he did his own piece much better, after he 
warmed up. It was the State Opera Orchestra. There was always 
the joke going around about Strauss conducting "eine Mark, zwei 
Mark, drei Mark, vier Mark..." 

Crawford: Counting his money... 

Altman: He was really that way! He wrote when the Nazis came that he 
opposed their policies because he wanted people to come to his 
concerts, and he wanted to play music by Jews, Bavarians, et 
cetera. He said it was all the same to him. But then he went 
over quickly. His royalty checks were important. 

He was interested in receiving his royalties and having a 
large attendance for his opera and concert performances. He even 
expressed this mixture of benevolence towards the Jews with his 
desire for lucrative compromise in a letter to Stefan Zweig. 

Crawford: He collaborated? 

Altman: Yes. Not that he advocated their policies, but he did have a 

reason [to protect his family] because his daughter was Jewish, 
Fraulein Graf from Prague. When his son, Franz married her, her 
famous father-in-law, in fact, became her protection. 





Who continued to play and perform during the Nazi years? 
Toscanini and others refused to do it. 

I know 

Many of the great conductors of the time would not conduct in 
Germany, men like Fritz Busch, or Erich Kleiber. Many musicians 
lost their jobs right away as being "Nicht-Aryan." 

For strictly personal reasons I would like to mention the 
case of the cellist Josef Schuster. He was the regular cellist 
in the trio of Bronislaw von Pozniak, and without notifying 
Pozniak about his intentions, Schuster was negotiating with the 
Berlin Philharmonic, where Furtwangler wanted him as principal 

Finally Schuster broke the news to Pozniak, who hit the 
ceiling and Schuster had to endure a tongue-lashing, which he 
certainly deserved. 

Accepting the position in Berlin, Schuster became one of the 
musicians for whom Furtwangler stood up, trying his best to keep 
up but failing in this. Schuster left Germany in time to become 
principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic. Later he moved 
to California as a freelancing soloist. 

The real fight in the Nazi regime over German music focused 
on the music of Paul Hindemith, Germany's "modern" leading 
composer. By and large Hindemith's music was disliked by the 
public as too dissonant, too little melody, too much noise. 
Sounds familiar, does it not? The only difference was that here 
we can play it unhindered; in Germany one risked one's livelihood 
in speaking up for Hindemith. This is exactly what Furtwangler 
did when he conducted Hindemith's Mathis , der Maler and got 
tumultuous applause from the Berlin audience. I was there, yes, 
I was there; it was marvelous. 

Unfortunately, neither Strauss nor Furtwangler prevailed. 
Their activities ceased for a while, after which they made, with 
the regime, a compromise indeed. While Strauss remained in 


Altman: Germany, composing and conducting as if nothing had happened, 
Hindemith left the country, landing in the United States as a 
professor at Yale. In returning to Europe, he settled in French 
Switzerland where he died and was buried in a small cemetery in a 
village above Lac Leman. 

Crawford: Were the orchestras denuded when the Jewish musicians had to 

Altman: Yes. But there are always more musicians than get jobs; that is 
an old story. 

By the way, the Jews who left went to Palestine, where the 
first Jewish orchestra was founded. The ones who helped do that 
were Bronislav Hubermann, the famous violinist, and Fritz 
Kreisler, considered the finest violinist of the time, and 
Toscanini; whose three men were instrumental in founding the 
Palestine-Israeli Philharmonic. 

Crawford: How did Toscanini get involved in that? 

Altman: As a humanitarian. He was motivated not to conduct any longer in 
Bayreuth, and he was one of the few not to do it any more because 
of fascism and because he knew the Jewish people were in dire 

Crawford: So Toscanini and Furtwangler really stand out as taking stands 
against Nazism. 

Altman: Absolutely. Although Toscanini much more than Furtwangler. 

I heard Furtwangler conduct Berlioz's Harold i.n Italy, which 
has a famous part for viola, and the violist was Paul Hindemith, 
at the Berlin Philharmonic, and I will never forget that. Since 
then Harold in Italy is one of my favorites. 

Getting Assigned to the High Holy Days Services 
and the Synagogue 

Altman: In 1933, with the advent of the Nazis, it became clear to a 
number of us young musicians in our middle twenties that our 
careers would be truncated because of the anti-Jewish laws which 
started to be given out right away. A number of us switched over 
to become organists, because there were always synagogues in 
Germany that needed organ players and always had had Christians 


Altman: play for religious reasons because Jewish people of the old faith 
are not supposed to work on the Sabbath, Friday evening and 
Saturday. So the organists were largely non-Jewish people. 

During the Hitler regime, they largely gave up their 
positions, and so there was a need. Berlin had about 172,000 
Jewish inhabitants at that time, and the first step was to 
participate in a preparatory course given by the Jewish people 
every spring to train enough organists, choir singers and choir 
directors, cantors and even rabbis to take the High Holy Days 
services, which were given every fall in synagogues, halls, and 
even movie houses to accommodate all the people who wanted to 
participate in the High Holy Days services. 

In 1933 I took the course and the examination at the end of 
the course. Depending on how well you did in the examination you 
were assigned to those many extra services. You must remember 
that the religious organizations were different from what we know 
here. Here if you are rich you can buy a lot and erect a 
synagogue, and nobody will hinder you, even if it's only the whim 
of a rich man. He can fulfill it. 

Not so in Europe. The Jewish people there are all under one 
central office. This office would assign who would sing, or who 
would preach, or who would be assigned to a specific synagogue. 
There were fourteen very large ones; seven were liberal and seven 
conservative. The seven liberal ones had mixed choirs, a cantor, 
and an organist. The orthodox synagogues had only male choirs, 
no organ and a cantor besides the rabbi, of course. 

The goal was to be so good that one would eventually get a 
job at one of the liberal synagogues. The first step in that 
direction was getting a job for the High Holy Days, when so many 
extra players would be needed. So I took the examination in 
1933, and I was judged good enough to be given an organ job in 
one of the movie houses of Berlin, in the north of Berlin where 
the laboring man lived, and it had every stop under the sun. 

I wanted to be well thought of because I wanted to get a 
regular job with the Jewish community, and at that time there was 
no thought that the Nazi situation would end up in a holocaust. 
Whenever the Nazis had a law against the Jews, people thought, 
"Now, that's enough. Hitler has now punished enough, and he will 
calm down, and we will survive." It developed gradually, and 
eventually it was so bad that no one could survive it. But at 
the beginning, all the rabbis and the top people thought Hitler 
was a passing phase and the good days would return. It was 
unthinkable what happened. 


Altman: So in the early days it was perfectly logical for a young fellow 
to want to prove himself as a very fine organist, get a permanent 
position, and eventually do very well. Not very well, because it 
was not well paid, but anyway it was a permanent job. 

So in 1933 I was given that job in a movie house and my 
choir director was unfortunately not very musical he was 
dreadful. They also rented the Philharmonic Hall and the 
Beethovensaal for the extra services; all the extra halls that 
they could rent, incidentally. They needed for every service one 
or two cantors, usually two, and a choir. 

Anyway, my choir director made me play loud, because he said 
Berlin people only like music that is loud. That was very 
strange to me, and whenever I rehearsed, he said, "Altman, play 
louder!" And I pulled stop after stop until there weren't any 
stops left, and he still said, "Can't you play louder?" 

I said, "Herr Vogel, the only thing left now is thunder and 

Well, he was suspicious, and he said: "You know what we'll 
do? Whenever I give you a special signal with my left hand, you 
play thunder and lightening." So whenever he did that, I kicked in 
the air, and he was very happy! 

Crawford: You didn't give him thunder and lightning 
Altman: No. It would have ruined the service. [laughter] 
Crawford: You have thunder and lightning at the Legion of Honor, too. 

Altman: Yes! Then later on I ran into the cantor for that occasion who 
had escaped the Nazis and become a prominent cantor in Detroit 
and he asked me if I knew why Herr Vogel made me do that. I 
said if I thought about it I probably thought he was hard of 
hearing. "Oh, no," he said, "for some reason he didn't like 
cantors, and he used you to drown me out!" 

Herr Vogel had a small conservatory of music in a lesser 
part of Berlin, and for some reason two of the sons in the Royal 
House of Hohenzollern took music lessons at that conservatory on 
the mouth organ, and so Herr Vogel had a direct line to the House 
of Emperor William the Second. 

Crawford: From there you went on to the synagogue. 

Altman: Yes, the next year I got an unbelievable opportunity in that I was 
given the best and greatest of those extra places. Not the 
synagogue but the services in the Philharmonic Hall. 

KlJ n St le r Hilfe der jOdischen Gemeinde 

in Gemeinschaft mit der jud. Chop- und Orchestervereinigung 

Neue Synagoge Oranienburger Sir. 30 
Dienstag, den 11. Dezember 1934 

abends 20 Uhr pOnktlich 



Dirigent: L 6 O Kopff 

Judische Chorvereinigung Judische Orchestervereinigung 

S o I i s t e n : 

Paula Lindberg (Alt) 
Hilda Lind (Sopran) 
Alice Hannes (Sopran) 

Israel Alter (Tenor) 

Julius Peissachowitsch (Bariton) 

Fritz Lechner (BaB) 

Am Fliigel: Gertrud Marcus An der Orgel: Ludwig Altmann 

Die SaaltUren werden erst ca. 2050 wieder geflffnet. - WShrend der Auffflhrung kein EinlaB 

Pause nach dem 1. Teil 
Das Ende der Pause wlrd durch vier Orgelaccorde angezeigt. 


Sonntag, den 10. Februar 1935 


Conzert der jiidischen Orchestervereinigung 
anlaOlich des 10jahr. Bestehens 

April 1935 

Erstauff Uh rung in Berlin 

Die Zerstbrung Jerusalems 

von Ferdinand Hitler 

(*ugfOhrt dureh dit JOdltch* Chor- und Orchttttrvcrclnlgung) 

W'Ci'C' 1 iiic^5i'c'S*S^'oC"^ 

B e I tr itts - E r k 1 a ru n g 

Judische Chorvereinigung { Judische Orchestervereinigung 

Ich trete als slngendes Mitglied bei 
Ich trete als ftirderndes Mitglied bel 

Cgenaue Adressenangabe erbeten). 


O.ichlftnt.lii : Pir!r StraBl 24 T.I. for, J 2 0629 

Ich trete als spielendes Mitglied bel 
Ich trete als ftirderndes Mitglied bei 


etehlfttt*ll*: Chirlottnburg4, Frltch**(r. 401. Til.Cl 6163 


Altman: It seems unbelievable to me that in 1934 I played the entire 

Jewish liturgy in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, the most prominent 
hall, and I was only about twenty-three years old, very 
inexperienced, and much more confident than I should have been. 

The only difficulty was that we had two cantors, because 
they have to sing endlessly, and for one everything had to be 
transposed upward, and for the other, downward, so I had to be 
able to play the entire liturgy in every key. 

But as a job that was a tremendous improvement, and then in 
1935 I got one of the regular temples as an organist. And in 
1936, my last year in Germany, I was for a year the main organist 
in a regular synagogue, the biggest synagogue (in Oranienburger- 
strasse). I made it straight to the top, and there was no 
harrassment in 1936. [This was the Neue Synagoge. ] 

Nazi Harrassment 

Crawford: Let's talk about that. 

Altman: In the beginning it was bad, but these were the good days by 
comparison. Because of the Olympic Games in 1936 the Nazis 
tried to soft-pedal the persecution of the Jewish people, which 
had started but was not so obviously visible at that time. 

The Jewish people had to be eliminated from the cultural 
life of Germany, and they lost all their positions; they could no 
longer be doctors, or judges, or lawyers; they could no longer be 
attached to any school, and that started right away in 1933. So 
the Jews were pushed together into their own lives and social 

In 1933, they started what I just described, that the Jewish 
people lost their positions in all fields and were only permitted 
to express and practice their work with their fellow Jews. You 
could still be a lawyer or a doctor, but you could not have an 
"Aryan" client, to put it bluntly. The "Aryan" population were 
told not to buy from a Jew or go into Jewish stores, and on 
certain days, like April 1, 1933, there was smashing of windows 
in all Jewish stores. I was there, and I witnessed it. Pictures 
were taken if people went into those stores, and it was 

Then it subsided a little, because Hjlmar Schacht told 
Hitler that if it continued, Germany would lose all foreign 
trade, which would not be in the interest of the German 
Reich. But, of course, you could see the handwriting on the 


Altman: wall, and the situation gradually went from bad to worse. And 
then when Hindenburg died there was no holding onto sanity any 
more. But in 1936 it was better for a while. 

At that time I learned English from a Polish woman who spoke 
it perfectly. We would walk through the streets of Berlin, and 
she would speak to me, and I would say, "y es > yes." That was 
enough to make us very attractive to the loitering youth of 
Berlin. They heard us speaking and thought, "Oh, they must be 
foreigners," something wonderful for them. We were constantly 
imposed upon to give our autographs! Here we were at the bottom 
of the pile, but they knew us only as foreign-speaking, 
foreigners, and we were followed with great admiration. 

That girl got out, too, fortunately, and she might still be 
alive in New York. I don't know. 

In the spring of 1933, quite a number of cultural leaders in 
Germany got together and I belonged to that group, not because of 
any merit, but because I had acquired another activity within the 
Jewish circle, namely, that I was music critic of the largest 
Jewish-German weekly, the Central Verein Zeitung, Yes, that's 

The Kulturbund 

Altman: I will never forget a meeting, held by Kurt Singer, who was by 
the way a medical doctor (a hematologist) and a marvelous 
musician he had charge of one of the opera houses in Berlin for 
a time. You know that Berlin in my student days had three opera 
houses playing for the whole year. There was the State Opera 
Unter den Linden, the Kroll Opera under the direction of 
Klemperer, and the third was the Berlin City Opera, Bismarck- 
strasse, which was in the 1920s under the guidance of Bruno 
Walter, and at times of Kurt Singer, the top man or intendant. 

Well, at that meeting, Dr. Singer said that if we Jews did 
not combine forces we would run in all directions, each one by 
himself. He suggested we make a Kulturbund, one cultural 
organization, that we cooperate and work together. He said, "My 
prediction is that we will have to do that for three years" that 
was a very long time then "and my prediction is that after that 
time Hitler will have gone the way of all the others and the 
whole thing will have normalized." 


Altman: So the Central Verein Zeitung became prominent all of a sudden 

because it was the main organ of the largest organization of Jews 
in Germany. 

Before it was insignificant, and now it became the biggest 
journal of the German Jews. So I started to write numberless 
reviews of operas, symphonies, all kinds of orchestral 
ensembles, lectures, recordings, and longer articles on 
anniversaries, et cetera. 

Crawford: Was your synagogue work full-time? 

Altman: No. A synagogue job for an organist is never full-time. Most 
churches don't pay full-time either. Maybe one in twenty-five. 

Even at Temple Emanu-El I was never expected to spend too 
much time. As a matter of fact, I did not want to be paid too 
much because it would obligate me to spend too much time there; 
I wanted to be free for outside musical work and play secular 
music, as I did with the symphony. 

Anyway, that was the Kulturbund, and it was extended all 
over Germany, so that the smaller Jewish communities got some 
musical activities, and it helped the morale a great deal. 

Crawford: Practically speaking, how was it organized? 

Altman: We were very well organized. We had good communications and we 
could travel freely. Several times I was sent Kulturfahrten 
that means tours, to smaller Jewish communities, usually with a 
singer or a recitant and an accompanist who would play the organ 
or the piano or the harmonium. I went on many of those, 
particularly in Prussia. 

Crawford: Did these have political implications? 

Altman: Yes. The Kulturbund was given its own theater in Berlin by the 
Nazi regime, which was hard to understand. On the one hand they 
suppressed us, enslaved us, and eventually killed us, but until 
almost the very end they insisted that we have this Berlin 
theater for our very own use and that we play in it a theater 
about the size of the Curran Theatre. 

Now what was the reason for that contradictory behavior? 
There were two reasons in my opinion. The first one was that 
they wanted to convince foreigners of their humanity toward the 
Jewish people. On the one hand the Germans did those horrible 
things and on the other they still wanted to impress the world 
that they were humanitarians towards us. Unbelievable that 
shortly before the concentration camps they would invite 
representatives from nations of the Red Cross to review those 


Altman: camps. They would dress them up for one day like a Viennese 

cafe, so that the foreigners would think we had a good life, our 
afternoon coffees, and all that. 

The other thing is that the supervision of these activities 
gave good jobs to topnotch Nazis. There was one man very high 
up named Hans Hinkel, who was the Nazi representative of all 
cultural endeavors. He was very visible. I knew him and he had 
a special box at the theater, where he would go at liberty, and 
he reported on us to the Nazis. But it's hard to understand, 
isn't it? 

Crawford: Did it cause people to overlook the seriousness of the situation? 
Altman: Yes, that's correct. 

Crawford: You said before that the Nazis wanted simply to get the Jewish 
people out of the system, not to exile them. 

Altman: The country too. You know the German Jews were largely 

assimilated and addicted to culture. You know it from Kurt 
Adler. He is just one of many; they are all more or less that 
way. We were imbued with German culture. That was the strange 

The culture of Germany/Austria was so marvelous. You know 
the music we admire is nine-tenths German. If you take that 
away, what's left? 

Crawford: Italian opera! 

Altman: Not for me! [laughter] 

Crawford: I read your article about the composers and their longing or lack 
of longing, and about Verdi and Puccini 

Altman: Oh, yes. I admire them very much and I know better than that. 
But that is the general idea, and somehow they felt they had to 
cut off the Jews from German culture. They felt that German 
music would strengthen the Jews too much, and they should not 
play or sing it any more. 

But in the beginning there was no such stricture, and it is 
characteristic that early on all of the operas given were German: 
Figaro, Fidelio. Later on the Nazis didn't permit that any more; 
they had to be Jewish. You could still give an oratorio of 
Mendelssohn, for example, but you could not give a work by 
Wagner. They wanted to control us, and also the choice of drama. 

But the Nazis supported the Kulturbund because they wanted 
it as a showpiece for foreigners. 


Crawford ; 

A 1 tin an : 

Crawford ; 


By law you couldn't play German music; could you perform Bach in 
the synagogue? 

You probably could, because they didn't announce it. Actually, 

the test piece for anyone who wanted to get an organ job in the 

synagogues was the Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Bach. 
Everybody had to play that. 

But, you know, the strangeness comes form the fact that on 
the one hand they wanted to destroy us and on the other they 
insisted that we make a success of our culture so that we could 
show on the outside that we were well off. 

It is true that in 1935, two years after Hitler came to 
power, we Jews could go to a concert or opera performance in 
"our" Berlin theater; everybody was Jewish, and we would check 
our overcoats and umbrellas in Europe, you can't take those 
into the theater and that is still the rule today and we would 
go there. Our overcoats were still good and they hadn't worn out 
yet and we looked like a respectable group of people who had 
nothing in the world to worry about. That was the impression we 

Did the Nazis subsidize the Jewish community? 
theater, but was there support for the arts? 

They gave you a 

No, I doubt that, 

But that we got a theater at all was something 

Crawford ; 


Working as a Music Critic 

Would you talk in some depth about your work in journalism and 

Well, it came easily to me, because my handling of the German 
language at that time was very good. When I show those reviews, 
people never believe that I was so young; 1 was only about 
twenty-two when I started reviewing those programs. I got quite 
a few compliments, and today, after quite a long life, I would 
almost say that that was my strongest suit, being a music critic 
and music reviewer, and under normal conditions in Germany, I 
would have followed that as my career. Before the Nazis came, I 
had made the right contacts, and I wanted to break into that 
field as a Berlin correspondent to places outside of Berlin. 

Crawford: Was that a position that had a lot of status in Germany? 


Altman: It was, yes. It depended on what you wrote and if you got the 

right papers. It took a little while to break in because you had 
to make the right contacts, and in Germany that is more difficult 
than here, yet theoretically possible. 

The most difficult thing here, if you are a singer, would 
be to get an audition with Kurt Herbert Adler or Mr. McEwen or 
whoever is on top, but it is possible, comparatively easy. But 
in Europe, no. To get an audition with any big shot is, for an 
unknown person, almost impossible. If you do have an in, it 
means more in Europe. Let's say that if somebody knew you well, 
an old school friend who could make the connection, it would be 
very meaningful and important. More so than here. 

It took a while for me to make the right contacts, but that 
is what I really wanted to do, be a correspondent of cultural 
affairs for the out-of-Berlin press. 

Crawford: And you had a good start on that career. 

Altman: I did, excellent. But then at the end when the Nazis stopped 

everything, even their own symphony orchestras went under in the 
last year of the war, and then all this collapsed at the same 

Crawford: Did you write for the non-Jewish press? 

Altman: No, those were all Jewish papers. 

Crawford: And were they in trouble before you left Germany? 

Altman: No, they were still going, but a year or two later they all 

stopped. I lived for four years under Nazi rule in Berlin, and 
the reason I was not personally hit too badly was that all my 
professional and economic life was within the Jewish community 
and I was not paid anything by the non-Jewish community. 

The second thing, and this sounds funny, is that I was once 
a blond-haired young fellow who looked non-Jewish, and I hate to 
say it, but it was almost a benefit. It was better to be this 
way because you were not attacked by anyone. Strange 

For instance, whenever two people met, they were supposed to 
give the Hitler salute, "Heil Hitler!" On the other hand, within 
the Jewish community, giving the salute was repulsive; it could 
be construed as a travesty even. If you didn't give the Hitler 
salute and other Nazis stood around you, they could hurt you, 
yell at you. On the other hand, if you did salute, and another 
person who knew about your being Jewish saw, you would be in 
trouble, too. 


Crawford: How did you handle that? 

Altman: I didn't. I always hoped for the best. 

Crawford: Let me go back to something you said before. You said that 

during the Depression there was a great need for music criticism. 
Why was that? 

Altman: Well, I meant it this way. The Depression was general. If you 

said, "I am a violinist and I can play the Tschaikovsky Concerto, 
or whatever," they would say, "Well, we have already twenty-five 
people who can play that." Everything was overcrowded. 

The Depression we experienced in the late 1920s comprised 
all endeavors in musical life also. An opera orchestra would 
have forty members, but the Depression meant that nobody had 
jobs, nobody had money, and they could cut down the orchestra so 
that one year it would be only twenty-five and that was in my 
opinion the wrong approach to the problem. But if you were a 
writer who could write under the feuilleton idea, they always 
needed to fill this space, and it was constantly being renewed. 
The newspaper had to have the political, economic, cultural news. 

Musical Life During the Weimar Republic 

Crawford: You've said that the musical life during the Weimar Republic was 
unequalled. How would you compare that era with, say, New York 

Altman: The music in New York is overrated, because not that many people 
go. The percentage is not that high, and we sometimes forget 
that. We have more cultural activity in San Francisco percentage 
wise. The number of people who attend here is greater 
percentagewise than in New York. 

But in Berlin you know, we had the three operas I mentioned 
to you and Otto Klemperer did many marvelous modern things. A 
lot of Stravinsky and the renaissance of the Handel operas took 
place at the same time. There were many wonderful things. They 
did Wozzeck with Erich Kleiber conducting at the Theater Unter 
den Linden and Darius Milhaud's Christopher Columbus at the State 
Opera in Unter den Linden, when those were very daring. 

Crawford: But people came? 

Altman: Oh, yes. But then in the Depression I think the Kroll Opera was 
closed altogether. 


Altaian: So that's it, but the thing I cannot still reconcile in my mind 
is the duplicity of orders from the highest top to down 
underneath. Did we bring that out pretty well? 

Decision to Leave Germany 

Crawford: Yes, I think so. But I would like to ask when you realized you 
couldn't remain as a Jewish musician in Germany. Before your 
uncle left? 

Altman: Well, my uncle Bruno left and was caught in France. He was the 

younger brother of my father. I never found out what happened to 
the older brother, my uncle Arthur, the musician. 

Vorstand der Jiidischen Gemeinde ~ n ~ n . , 

96a Berlin N 24, den J2Q,....Npreinb.e.r l 9 3? 

E/Gr Tagebuch-Nr II Oranienburger Str. 29 

Ee wird eriucht, vontehende Tagebuch-Nr. 

bei B&antwortung dieses Schreibene anzugeben. 

Wir bescheinigen hierdurch, dass 

Herr Ludwlg A 1 t m a n n 

seit einlgen Jahren in rerschiedenen Synagogen unserer Gemeii 
als Organist tfitig gewesen 1st* Seit einiger Zelt 1st ihm da* 
Organistenamt an unserer Neuen Synagoge,0ranienburgerstr. tib 
tragen worden* 

Hit einem gesunden Muslkenpf inden ausgestattet und ui 
tersttltzt durch ein gediegenes Orgelstudlum, hat Herr Altmam 
den HUS ikal is chen Teil des Gottesdienstes durch seine klinstle 
rischen Qualit&ten gehoben und durch sein gutes Einfxihlungsr< 
mo'gen in die Jtidische Kultmusik die Andacht weiheroll gestall 
Seine Anpassungsgabe hat. ihn besonders befa'higt, den kantoral 
Teil des Gottesdienstes ;Ln musikaliscln abgerundeter Fora dars 


bieten. Herr Altmann, dejn in der Orgel der Neuen Synagoge eii 
der grSssten Orgeln Berlins anrertraut worden 1st, hat si oh 
zurerl&ssiger und rersierter Organist nlcht nur bei den Gott< 
diensten, sondern auch In ganz ausgezeichneter Weise bei den 
Ton uns reranstalteten Synagogenkonzerten erwiesen und hat d( 
bei schwere Orgelkomposltionen ait anerkennensvertea kilns tie: 
schen Geschick zur Aufftihrung gebracht. 

Herr Altoann Terlfisst das Arat auf elgenen Wunsoh. Wi] 
glauben sicher, dass jede Geme^nde, der er als Organist angel 
ren wird, In Ihn elne wertTolle Kraft gefunden haben wird* 

Vorstand der Jtidischen Gemelnde. 

BOARD OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY Berlin, November 30, 1936 

We here by certify that: 
Mr. Ludwig Altmann 

has been employed as organist for a number of years in several synagogues of 
our community for. Some time ago he was given the post of organist in our New 
Synagogue, Oranienburgerstr . 

Because of his feeling for music, and helped by thorough 

studies of the organ, Mr. Altmann has been able to lift the artistic level and 
by his ability to incorporate his sensitivity for sacred Jewish music he was 
able to create an uplifting service. Especially his ability to get along with 
people made it possible for him to enrich the caontoral part of the service. 
Mr. Altman, has proven himself as an accomplished organist on the organ at the 
Oram'enburgerst . synagogue, one of the largest in Berlin, and as a reliable and 
experienced organist not only in the religious service but also in synagogue 
concerts where he demonstrated his artistic talent in noteworthy performances 
of difficult organ compositions. 

Mr. Altman is leaving his post on his own request. We feel 

sure, that any community in which he will be active as an organist will find in 
him a valuable asset. 

Board of the Jewish Community 


[Interview 2: March 29, 1988] ## 

Crawford: Let us begin with your decision to leave Germany and discuss how 
you finished your work at the synagogue in Berlin. 

Altman: It was difficult in the beginning because if you were living in 
Germany under Hitler and were Jewish you were thrown in two 
directions at the same time. 

First, we like to stay where we are if we are reasonably 
successful and satisfied and happy. On the other hand, there was 
a growing threat, first to our livelihood and later on to our 
life, which was extinguished for all those Jewish people who 
stayed too long. 

That was where the conflict was in our own soul. Did I 
want to leave? Is it very necessary that I do so, and if I 
leave can I do so successfully? This was particularly poignant 
in my case, because I was able in 1933 to shift my activity in 
such a way that I worked as a Jewish musician and did not feel 
the full impact of the catastrophe that was impending. 

I must say that my mother was among those who particularly 
urged me and my sister to leave Germany, which she did at about 
age fifteen. She left Breslau for Palestine, and I took her to 
the train in Berlin together with my mother. It was difficult, 
because the British were very antagonistic toward any large 
immigration into Palestine, and so it was considered a stroke of 
good luck to get a visa to go there. But she did, and then later 
I went to the United States. 

It was difficult to get into the United States, but 
fortunately I had relatives in San Francisco who sent the 
necessary papers it was called an affidavit and so it was 
possible for me to come here. 


Altman: I left Germany in December of 1936 on a very pleasant British 

boat called the Georgic via Holland and London, where I visited 
school friends from the Gymnasium, and arrived in New York 
January 7th or 8th, 1937. It was a rather stormy voyage, and the 
New York celebration found all of us in our bunks because we were 
all seasick. 

But the next day it was better and we all enjoyed the trip. 
I came to New York, where I was greeted by some older friends who 
had to meet the boat, because you couldn't leave the boat unless 
you had friends to pick you up. 

A Call from Carnegie Hall 

Altman: My first night I spent in New Rochelle, where my very good 

friends Alfred and Rose Zadig lived. It was a good introduction, 
and I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and the kindliness and 
wonderful feelings of these American friends. This was, by the 
way, on a Thursday, and on the first Sunday I almost had the 
chance to play the organ for religious services at Carnegie Hall, 
no less! 

This came about in the following way: The most important 
man, musically speaking, among the Jewish people in New York was 
Abraham Binder. He was a very good musician and a sort of 
reformer of Jewish liturgy and he wrote many compositions, most 
of them for the Jewish services. 

Binder served as the "musical director" of the Free 
Synagogue. The Free Synagogue is a large religious institution 
in New York and he as director was very prominent. He was also a 
politician, a macher (Jewish expression), and you must understand 
that there were almost two million Jewish people, and so to be a 
big shot meant quite a bit of renown. 

His organist got sick all of a sudden, a Mr. Richardson who 
was a very fine man, and Binder, who had heard me play, said, 
"Ludwig, you better be ready on Sunday morning to play in 
Carnegie Hall if Mr. Richardson does not recuperate in time." So 
I was ready for that; I got goose pimples and stage fright! 

Crawford: What an arrival! 

Altman: Yes, what an arrival I had really never played on an American 
organ, and you know how different organs are, to say nothing of 
all the new music. 


Altman: I went to Carnegie Hall, but Richardson was well. When he came 
he was wobbly, and he had me sit with him and turn pages. I 
remember so well that he played the slow movement from Dvorak's 
New World Symphony, an unusual choice of music, but one that 
tells a great deal about the musical life in the United States. 
As Professor Allen from Stanford said laughingly: "The organists 
[here] play symphonic pieces and the symphonies play transcribed 
organ pieces!" 

Crawford: So it was more flexible programming than you would have found in 

Altman: Much more. Germany was very rigid, and here you played symphonic 
movements or quartet movements, song adaptations or arrangements 
from other media, and the orchestra leaders played organ fugues 
of Bach usually arranged by Leopold Stowkowski and others. 

As the name implies, the Free Synagogue was free. They had 
services on Sunday, not Saturday, the Shabbat, and they had no 
synagogue of their own. They rented Carnegie Hall whenever they 
needed it, and they had a very, very famous rabbi as their had, 
Rabbi Stephen Wise, who was a real leader of the Jewish people. 
He had an in with then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and 
for this alone everybody looked up to him. He was a fantastic 
orator, a very handsome man, and he was preaching at those 
services. That day he was as close to me on the pulpit there as 
I am to you now. 

Learning English 

Altman: The sermon was very well done, but I couldn't understand it 

because I knew almost no English. I had learned a little bit on 
the boat trip and I had a few lessons in Berlin from a man who 
married a German girl, not Jewish, and who gave lessons to those 
who wanted to come to this country. He was not really a very 
good teacher. All he had was The New York Times of Sunday, which 
weighed twenty-five pounds or so, and that was what he read to 

Crawford: Wasn't that terribly difficult for you? 

Altman: Extremely, but one thing I learned very quickly was that you 

learn best by going to religious services, because the preachers 
are usually slow-speaking and the subject matter is repetitious, 
with the same words occurring again and again, so you get used to 
the idiom. 


Crawford ; 



Did you have more formal training after you arrived in the United 

No, none whatsoever. I had my whole education in Germany up to 
the university level. Of foreign languages I had only Greek and 
Latin (twelve hours a week) and some sprinkling of French. 
English I didn't have at all, so that was a handicap, but it 
wasn't too bad because I had lots of company. 

I had actually a very funny experience on the boat trip. 
There was another young fellow from Cologne who was asked if he 
spoke English, so he said that he did. But he definitely did 
not, and I was asked the same question and gave the same answer, 
that I knew English. 

There were two gentlemen who expressed the desire to speak 
English only at the table and so the purser put us at the same 
table and when they realized that my friend and I didn't know any 
we were shunned by the two gentlemen, one from Boston and the 
other from New York, and I don't really blame them. 

The only dish we could really pronounce was apple pie. So 
we pointed to it with our fingers and said we wanted "apple pee"! 

Did you travel alone in this country? Did your parents come? 

No, my parents stayed back in Germany. It wasn't easy to come to 
this country and what would they do here? At that time, while 
things went from bad to worse, the extermination camps and 
concentration camps of later years were not yet in evidence. We 
did not imagine the final barbarism of the Germans. The final 
words were spoken in, if I had to give a date, I would say it was 
1940. It was not thought that it would get that bad at all. 

Connections in the United States (Musical) 

Crawford: What musical contacts did you make in Germany before you left? 

Altman: I was very fortunate. In Germany I befriended a young fellow my 
age by the name of Allan Wayne who came from Terra Haute, 
Indiana. He was an artistic dancer, employed first by the opera 
company in Breslau I don't know how he got there and from there 
he went to Berlin where he danced in the best cabaret. The 
"Winter Garden," I think it was called. 


Altman: I was his accompanist, and I played those artistic dance music 
things, and he always wanted me to come to Terra Haute to work 

with him and then go on tour with him. 

In December of 1932, right before Hitler came to power, he 
left Berlin he had a notion he should go home. He was also 
Jewish, but had switched to the Christian Science religion, and 
so he said to me to come to Terra Haute he lived there with his 
mother and we would work up a program and go on tour. As he 
left the railroad station in Berlin, he was hanging out of the 
window and said, "Don't forget to come." 

"Why should I come? I'm very happy here," I said. But then 
a month later things changed drastically with the takeover of the 
Nazi government, and finally I decided to take up his invitation 
to come, but things didn't work out, and I couldn't get 
permission to come until later. 

Anyway, Allan Wayne was my first contact. I saw him by the 
way in Chicago. But other contacts? Only my relatives here in 
San Francisco. 

Crawford: So the fact that your relatives were in San Francisco caused you 
to come here. 

Altman: Also that I had my fare paid. You know the Nazis imposed 

stipulations that if you left Germany they would let you take out 
ten dollars, and in my German passport it said that I promised 
never to come back to Germany! I can show it to you. 

And so ten dollars in New York was nothing, but I had a boat 
trip paid through the Panama Canal to San Francisco, and that 
line went on strike. That meant that the ship line had to repay 
me what the ticket would have been, and that was almost two 
hundred dollars. It was a great deal of money and I got it in 
cash. For half of that I could take the train, so I had one 
hundred dollars when I arrived here instead of ten. That was 
really good luck. 

I had taken the English boat from Southampton to New York 
and the train first to Chicago, where I stopped to greet my 
friend from Terra Haute, and then I went on. But I have to 
backtrack to New York, because while I did not play that service 
at Carnegie Hall, I did go to other synagogues where I got an 
offer in a place called the Hebrew Tabernacle, a synagogue of 
some prominence. 

I was welcomed very cordially and I learned right away about 
the informality of American customs. You know in Germany there 
is a big fuss made about diplomas and it is all very, very 


Altman: formal, but here it was the opposite, 
engage me needed an organist today! . 
following Monday. 

The cantor who was to 
So I was to start the 

Crawford: But you didn't? 

Altman: No, because I had my railroad ticket and was anxious to meet my 

relatives first. But I accepted the position in New York anyway, 
telling them that I would return in time to become their 
organist. That was my sincere intention. Having a job, limited 
as it was, made me feel so very much better and strengthened my 
self-confidence no end. 

Then I went to Chicago to see Allan Wayne. We discussed the 
situation and he agreed that continuing on to San Francisco would 
be best for the immediate future. I used the time in Chicago to 
make contacts with other organists and by chance I heard of an 
opening in Glencoe, a suburb of Chicago. 

So I auditioned there with music by Bach and Max Reger and 
was accepted! The temple (Reform) was beautiful, Rabbi Schulman 
young and nice, his wife lovely. They had great things in mind 
too, like a debut recital in Kimball Hall. 

In Chicago I became acquainted with Lawrence Morton, the 
organist and musical director of the North Shore Congregation, a 
lively, progressive synagogue. They were working on the Sacred 
Service of Ernest Bloch, the very work which was commissioned by 
Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco! Of course, at that moment I 
had no idea that I would become Emanu-El 's organist within just a 
few months! Luckily I was familiar with the work because the 
Neue Synagoge where I had been the organist had given the German 
premiere, and I had the program and review with me. 

All this was but the beginning and as I was always 
interested in any kind of musical expression I want to mention 
the first recital I heard in the New World, namely the farewell 
concert of Rosa Ponselle in Carnegie Hall. It was glorious in 
every way. I was particularly interested in her accompanist, 
Richard Hageman, who had the reputation of knowing all his 
accompaniments from memory and in any key. One of his songs was 
the rage at the time; it was "Miranda," I believe. 

While in Chicago I was anxious to hear their orchestra, 
which today ranks highest of them all. I did and the conductor 
was their second in command, Hans Lange. 



Crawford: It sounds as if you had offers everywhere you went. 

Altman: Yes, but also I told them all I wanted to go to San Francisco. 

So when I arrived here I had those two positions to fall back. on. 
I already felt very much better despite the low pay on which I 
could not have lived. But it was a beginning, you see, and you 
could use it as a stepping-stone. Also you could work in the 
synagogue on your own practice and improvement. 

So I went to San Francisco, and the one thing I liked much 
better was the climate. In Chicago it was dreadful. 

Crawford: You had been there in wintertime. 

Altman: Yes, and it was really awful. I paid only five dollars for three 
weeks' stay. Can you imagine what kind of a room that was? 

But I arrived in San Francisco, and as I came off the train 
I must have made an awful impression on my relatives, two aunts 
and an uncle. They told me years later that I was so serious 
when I arrived in that heavy German overcoat! 

I stayed with them three years, and that worked out very 
well, because one aunt had a son about my age, a young student at 
Columbia. We became close friends. Actually, upon my initial 
arrival in New York, he hadn't picked me up at the boat, but right 
afterwards I stayed with him at the International House, a very 
well known institution for students. There is one in Berkeley 
also. So that's it! 

Crawford: What were your relatives doing here at the time? 

Altman: Well, they were fairly old at the time and were not working. My 
uncle was in the jewelry business before. 

Crawford: So you were in San Francisco and you decided not to take either 
of the other offers. 


Teaching Piano: "An Awful Profession" 

Altman: No. I humored those people in New York and Chicago along, 

delaying my decision. I didn't want to tie myself down too soon, 
because I was really too green and my English was still poor. 

In San Francisco I was blessed with good luck as one good 
thing fell into place after another, which gave me a wonderful 
feeling. The reports I mailed to my parents were also their 
lifeline. They gave them hope as conditions for the German Jews 
got worse. 

When I arrived here I was enamored right away. My relatives 
had a beautiful home on Jackson Street near Steiner in the 
Pacific Heights district, and right away I made all the right 
contacts. They took me over to their relatives in Oakland a 
judge and a dentist and I soon got my first position in a 
settlement house on San Bruno Avenue, giving piano lessons to 
beginners. I started really from the bottom up, because it is an 
awful profession to be a piano teacher! 

Crawford: You never liked working at that, did you? 

Altman: No, not with untalented pupils. Oh, a few I did enjoy. It was 
really very funny. There was a lady, Grace Wiener was her name, 
who ran the institution. When she saw me she told me later on 
she could not refuse me as I looked so much like the young Yehudi 

Menuhin grew up in that settlement house and I think had his 
bar mitzvah there, too. 

There I received five dollars for each afternoon of 
teaching. Three hours of teaching, and no fringe benefits, but 
since I stayed with my relatives in the beginning, it did not 

Later I started to give lessons on the outside, which were 
better paid, and then I started getting engagements in churches, 
and I was surprised that it was possible for me to play in 
church at all. In Europe it would have been unthinkable. No 
Catholic could play a service in a Lutheran church, no Lutheran 
in a convent. 


American Recital Debut; Stanford University 



In October of that year you gave a recital at Stanford, 
your debut? 

Was that 



Al tman : 

Yes, I went by train; it was delightful such a nice and 
comfortable feeling and there was a beautiful organ. Stanford 
still has it, by the way, in the chapel. They have another organ 
now, which is also very large, in addition to the first one. 

The new Fisk organ? 

The second one is a Fisk, yes. But the first one was just as 
fine for its time as the Fisk is for us today. All organs are 
custom-made, none like any other. What constitutes "right" is a 
source of neverending debate. Still, we will not and actually 
cannot come to any truly final conclusion, and that is just as 
well. The debate makes for progress; it keeps organ builders and 
performers and composers growing. 

Is it largely a matter of taste? 

Yes, but more enters into it. For instance, our sound ideal and 
our knowledge about these changing sound ideals grows through 
research. We are learning from the past and applying much of it 
for the future. 

We realize today how important it is to design an organ for 
its main use: for services or for recitals. Although we argue 
constantly about organ design and construction we never come up 
with any definite answer as to what is the "right" or "wrong" 
instrument and we probably never shall. 

Good. Tell me how the Stanford concert came about. 

Well, I knew Professor Warren D. Allen, Stanford's university 
organist. He had become nationally known because of essays on 
music in the military of all things. 

I quickly found out that what I knew in the organ repertoire 
was totally lacking in variety and that I had better learn music 
written not for organ but for something else and learn how to 
play symphonic music on the organ. 

I've forgotten the details but I played all kinds of 
arrangements and adaptations, not the real stuff I had learned in 
the old country. The average German organist gets by if he knows 
Bach, Max Reger, some Buxthehude, and maybe a little of some more 


Altman: Baroque-style composers, but that's all. On that he can live all 
his life without having to learn much else. Nobody will expect 
anything different. 

Crawford: So it's more challenging to play here? 

Altman: Yes, it definitely is. Also taking lessons in America is lots 
more fun than in the old country where the teacher is a tyrant 
who gives in to his moods entirely. 

A New Repertoire and an Experiment with 
Electronic Organs 

Altman: Well, that was my first concert, and I don't think I got a 

review, but then I had a brainstorm. You know, the electronic 
organs had their debut at about this time. 

Crawford: Was that the Hammond organ? 

Altman: The Hammond organ, yes. I conceived the idea that since the 
Hammond organ is movable, for the first time we could use the 
organ with the orchestra, which you never could do well before. 
You cannot rip a pipe organ out of its case and move it. It's 
"put" forever. But with the Hammond organ, for the first time in 
our existence, we could use it like it was a piano. 

There was a lady conductor named Antonia Brico, very well 
known, who was living in Denver and trying to get a foothold with 
an orchestra there, not very successfully. Antonia is a 
wonderful human being, and she was invited to conduct a concert 
with the WPA orchestra here. I approached her with the idea of 
becoming her soloist in the Handel Organ Concerto in G minor, 
playing on the new Hammond organ. 

The combination of organ with orchestra was well received by 
the audiences, the reviews were positive, and there were 
compliments from headquarters of the Hammond Company as well. 

Unfortunately, the company turned towards the commercial, 
not the artistic side, and so there was no enthusiasm among 
organists for the Hammond. 


Introduction to Alfred Hertz and Pierre Monteux 

Altman: To go back to Miss Brico and how I approached her, it was 
probably through Alfred Hertz. Alfred Hertz was the San 
Francisco Symphony conductor until 1929, but he was still well 
beloved in San Francisco. 


Altman: I remember my meeting him: it was strange funny. In the house 
where my relatives lived and where I lived, there was a lady who 
was a piano teacher. She lived on the ground floor and she 
invited me to come and see a dance program given by the daughter 
of our then symphony conductor, Pierre Monteux. 

So I went with her, and in back of me sat a lady who later I 
found out was Mrs. Lilly Hertz, the wife of the conductor. Now I 
must confess that my knowledge and enthusiasm for dance is very 
limited. I mean I like it very much, but not for more than 
fifteen minutes. To me, it is built up like the art of Rembrandt 
or Beethoven, and I don't think it's in the cards. It is just 
movement and body acrobatics and I think it's played up too high. 

Maybe that was the reason that I did not enjoy the dance 
program particularly, and there was also the thing I learned 
later on about the basic behavior difference between Europe and 
America, that the Europeans are given to expressing bad 
thoughts very freely at the drop of a hat, and that Americans 
are much kinder and nicer. 

Crawford: You're talking about your reaction to the performance? 

Altman: Yes. That I expressed myself on the spot. I don't know what I 
did but I must have made some derogatory remarks about the 
dancing, and Mrs. Hertz took that to mean criticism of the family 
of Monteux. It sounds strange when I talk like that, and I 
should really not have said that, because the Monteux were 
marvelous to me later on. 

Anyway, she was elated with my reaction and patted me on the 
back and invited me to their home to meet her husband, who was 
still a fabulous musician. Of course, he gave the first 
performance of Salome at the Met and other things like Parsifal. 
Top man. 

Crawford: Did she approve of the fact that you criticized the performance? 


Altman: Yes. It endeared me to her because her husband was the former 

conductor. You see it was [the feelings of] the man who was out 
toward the man who was in. Not that Monteux had anything to do 
with it. Females are more jealous, and males are more tolerant. 
Even nowadays ! 

Crawford: So that is how you met Alfred Hertz? 

Altman: Yes, by making derogatory remarks about the daughter of Pierre 
Monteux! [laughter] 

The WPA Orchestra 

Crawford: What happened because of your meeting? 

Altman: A great deal. I went to the house, and then he took to me. I 

played for him a Brahms sonata, which impressed him, and then the 
organ playing also. 

He was at that time the director of the Works Progress 
Administration (WPA) Orchestra. They had a regular symphony 
orchestra and the conductor was their protege, Leslie Hodge, an 
Australian boy, very handsome, a little bit older than I was. He 
later became the conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, and for a 
while he was in Guadalajara, Mexico, also as a conductor. Very 
talented boy. 

Crawford: Tell me about the Hertzes. 

Altman: He was the funniest man. He was so full of jokes, very jovial, 
and devoted to great music, up to Mahler. I don't think he went 
much beyond that, but he didn't have to. Mahler and then 
Strauss, of course. She was a she was a nut. [chuckles] She 
was in the first place a very convinced Christian Scientist, 
really believing that God heals directly, you need no medication 
and no physician, and she stuck with that. She was terribly 
bossy; she wanted me to marry one girl after another, and she 
also recommended elderly women, for occasional use. I mean, it 
was Just a nut! But good natured. I don't want to shock 

Crawford: No, no. [laughs] Go ahead! 

Altman: They were like cat and dog. They couldn't stand each other, and 
when she came in and he was playing the piano or something, he 
would say, "Out, out, Lilly, go out!" And he would throw her 
out. It was terrible but it was their way and she was very nice 
to many people. 


Altman: They had a wonderful property on Mount Tamalpais, a huge place 
there, and very often we would go there and have a meal in the 
open. Unluckily, she did not believe that eating was necessary, 
and so it was always very small what you got there, and he as 
well as all of us, we always ate either before or afterwards, 
because on her portions you could not be satisfied. 

He loved pretty girls and he would say, "Come for dinner, 
stay for breakfast," and laugh his high-pitched boy's laugh. 

Crawford: Did they help you musically? 

Altman: Yes, of course. He had to make a new edition of some Wagner, and 
for that he needed a new piano score. In other words the 
orchestral score newly edited, a reduction for the piano called a 
vocal score. But he didn't like the one there and so asked 
Leslie for this and that, and me for this and that. 

Leslie did the Tannhau'ser Overture, which is not easily done 
(hums theme), and my job was to do the Tannhauser March, and also 
the Prize Song from Die Meistersinger , those two. The publisher, 
by the way, was the well-known Carl Fisher in New York. 

And then I had to play The Pines f Rome organ part, which 
Leslie conducted. 

Piano Lessons for Leon Fleisher 

Altman: And then that same year Leon Fleisher, who was a boy of eight 

years, needed a piano teacher, and Mr. Hertz recommended me to be 
the piano teacher, and I did that for one year, every single day 
of the year. I taught that young genius the piano and a large 
repertory. One thing was the Variations Serieuses of 
Mendelssohn, the Sonatina by Ravel, and the Well-Tempered 
Clavier, and some Beethoven sonatas. 

The boy was so phenomenal. You know, I would give him a 
piano sonata of Beethoven and the next day he had it memorized. 

Crawford. It is he who has lost the use of one hand, isn't it? And he 
plays the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand. 

Altman: Yes. He will play again the coming season. 
Crawford: That is nice for you, that you see him still. 


Altman: Yes. I gave him lessons every day for one year, by the 

arrangement of the Hertzes. The family lived on Fulton Street, 
and he was the sweetest boy, and was he handsome! He had eyes to 
die over and gorgeous hair, beautiful child, and very highly 
motivated and very interested in everything. A very good boy, 
and not a mean strain in him. 

The Fleishers lived in San Francisco, and there was an older 
brother, Raymond, also very musical, and also a very lovely boy. 

To give you an idea of the jokes the boy caught on to: Once 
had had a bad cold, so he was looking out of the window as I was 
coming, and rushed to the door. I said, "Leon, how is your 
cold?" "Oh, it's very bad," he said. "Oh, that's wonderful," I 

He looked up, startled, and then I said, "Yes. If your 
cold is in very bad shape, then it's good for you! That means 
you get the best of it now." [laughter] That was very 
sophisticated, and he understood it. You can tell him that joke 
today, and he will remember it. 

Pierre Monteux and the French Influence; The Musical 
Community in the 1930s 

Crawford: Tell me what the music community was like in the 1930s. 

Altman: It was very strongly oriented towards the French, in vocal as 
well as piano music, and it was very naturally strengthened by 
the fact that Pierre Monteux was our musical leader at the time. 
And if you would compare his programs with today's with 
Blomstedt's you would find much more French music and with 
French music I make the distinction of Berlioz on one side, whom 
I worship I consider him absolutely one of the greatest 
composers ever, and definitely France's glory in music and then 
the other was the Debussy school. 

Of course, Monteux made his mark as the first conductor 
who performed the Sacre Du Printemps; he inaugurated that 
in Paris and he conducted it here from memory. You cannot follow 
the pages, because you would get lost instantly. The counting is 
too irregular. Have you ever seen the score? Would you like to? 
[pauses to get score] 

Here, you have constantly to shift the count. It goes 
constantly, 1-2-3-, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-1-1. You know some counts are 
only one beat, and the orchestra is relying on the conductor to 
make absolutely no mistake. It would be chaos. 


Crawford: He would lose the orchestra. 

Altman: Absolutely. They would go in all directions, 



Working at the Temple 

Crawford: Let us talk about your work at Temple Emanu-El. 

Altman: The Temple organist when I came was Wallace Sabin, who was sixty- 
nine years old and obviously a very nervous man, and since the 
job demanded too much of him he welcomed my being with him on the 
organ bench whenever something difficult came up. So I would 
slip over and play on the beautiful organ at Temple Emanu-El. 

Cantor Rinder was used to seeing me around whenever Mr. 
Sabin was on vacation, and I would play then. When Sabin died 
very suddenly he had evidently a heart attack while conducting a 
choral concert I was just hanging on. You couldn't even say 
that I tried for the job. 

Crawford: How did you get involved initially with the Temple? 

Altman: Well, my family were members to begin with; everybody knew Cantor 
Rinder, and everybody knew Mr. Sabin, and whenever I was 
introduced somebody would say: "That is young Mr. Altman, he 
does the service; he is an organist." "Oh, does he know Cantor 
Rinder?" It was almost automatic. 

I never had a contract at Temple Emanu-El. I played for 
fifty years, from 1937 to 1987 without a contract! [laughs] 

Crawford: Describe the Temple and the congregation. 

Altman: Well, it was just the place to be. It was just so overwhelming 
that there was no other within even a mile. 

Crawford: The most prominent temple? 


Altman: Yes, and still is. So all the people who had a great interest in 
music would belong and would sponsor projects, and Cantor Kinder 
had a real knack for getting them to do that and so we had for 
the first time really great composers compose for the synagogue 
again. Two or three: Ernest Bloch, of course. 

Crawford: They were commissioned? 

Altman: Actually it was one of the bankers from New York (in that case), 
named Warburg. Another commissioned composer was Darius Milhaud. 
He wrote a whole sacred service for us. 

Crawford: Was that when he was working at Mills College? 

Altman: Yes. He was at Mills. 

Crawford: I noticed that you had correspondence with Aaron Copland. 

Altman: Yes, but only that he would not do a service. The other day I 
saw his organ symphony. He sent me a copy and said he wished 1 
would play it. I never wrote to him about that. 

Crawford: Did you ever play it? 

Altman: I never got to do it, but I did play many, many compositions by 
Copland. He has a little organ piece called Episode, it is not 
much, and then we did In the Beginning, God Created, a cape 1 la 
piece. I don't know if you heard it; it's about twenty-five 
minutes long. It was given at my urging, and the conductor at 
that time was Robert Commanday, who was a choir conductor before 
he became a music critic. 

He is a very good choral conductor. He also did an oratorio 
of Mozart which nobody knew called The Penitent David; David 
Penitente in Latin. 

Crawford: So you did some adventurous programming, and you could do 
whatever you wanted. 

Altman: Yes, it was welcome indeed, because nobody else did it. All of 
the things I did at the Temple were novelties. Not for the 
services; there was the cantor for those, but for my recitals. 
We had choral ensembles and we had instrumental ensembles and we 
did lots of good stuff. 

Crawford: How about funding? 

Altman: I got the money from the Musicians Fund. They had a transcrip 
tion and recording fund and when the recording industry issued 
something that was played, there was a special fund that they had 
to turn over to the union. 


Altman: That fund was distributed nationally, and you had to apply for it 
and if they liked the idea and you could show them success, they 
would give you money again. So I asked many a time. Think how 
beautiful! We had the whole Art of the Fugue under that 
sponsorship in 1949. 

Crawford: How time-consuming was your work at the Temple? 

Altman: Well, it was a percentage [of my time], but I hate to say how 

much, because I did so many things all at once, and that is also 
characteristic of life here, because we are either going up or we 
are going down, and it is very difficult to stay on an even keel 
and to repeat yourself. In America this is not the way to be 
successful or even satisfied. And that would apply to my work at 
the Temple. 

The regular routine work would not have required too much, 
but there were always so many outside things. 

Teaching at the University of California and 
a Church Post 


Crawford ; 

Al tman : 

There were many other opportunities for me. In the first place, 
I could also have a church job, which I had during the last forty 
years at one of the Christian Science churches here, the Ninth 
Church. There they even have a very fine new organ, an Aeolian- 
Skinner, the last of that company before they went bankrupt. 

They don't exist anymore, which is a shame because they 
built beautiful instruments. One of the very last ones was here 
in the Ninth Church, and they said, "We bought that for you, 
because the old one is not good enough." 

Pipe organ. 
Yes, of course. 

So you had those two jobs, and were you still teaching at that 

Like mad, and I also started a program for the University of 
California extension in 1947. First I taught the history of 
organ music, a course I gave in the organ loft of the Temple. 
Every Monday night there would be a large number of people and 
they would all be freezing in the winter, and have a wonderful 

Crawford: They don't offer that anymore, do they? 


Altman: No. Everything went under. 
Crawford: Why? 

Altman: I could cover many jobs initially: I could play at the Temple 
and at the Church; I could give those courses for the Cal 
extension; I could give private lessons, and teach at Berkeley. 
I also played the piano an awful lot for singers and 
instrumentalists. But as these jobs grew, I gave them up, one 
after another after another, because they could not longer be 
handled by one man. 

Crawford: Did someone take over the UC classes? 

Altman: Many did what I did alone. But not the UC classes, because those 
went under. The reason was really a very personal one. You know 
Estelle Caen, the sister of Herb Caen? 

Crawford: No. 

Altman: A very tall person, very intelligent and nice lady, and she lost 
her husband to cancer. She remarried again very happily, and 
didn't want to do university work anymore. And so she gave it up 
and they could not find a successor. She ran the department 
where I worked and so the whole thing folded. That was a dirty 
shame . 

Crawford: What else did you give up? 

Altman: Well, for example, Carmel. For eighteen years I was the official 
organist. I started, I think, in 1948, and this grew from very 
modest beginnings one concert repeated several times until they 
elongated the season. In the meantime I had started playing in 
Europe again and I had to stop playing in Carmel. My first 
concert in Europe was in 1960, in London. 

The Carmel Bach Festival 

Crawford: Please talk about your position there. You were the organist at 
the Carmel Bach Festival from 1948 to 1965. How did you come to 
get that position? 

Altman: I can't remember exactly, but [Mrs. Altman reminds him that it 
was through music critic Alexander Fried.] That's right. You 
know, Alexander Fried did many fine things for many people, and 
he suggested to me that I contact that Bach Festival. 



So I called Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous, the two ladies who ran 
the Festival, and they liked the idea and invited me to see the 

I went to see it. It was in the Episcopal church (now City 
Hall) and it was in bad shape. The organ case had mice in it, 
and when one played they jumped out and ran down the aisles. 

The organ maintenance man came from the Peninsula and he was 
congenial and artistic but not the best-equipped mechanic. He 
fixed only the notes I used the most! [laughter] Later, though, 
they got a very good German organ, a Bosch from Gottingen. 

Gastone Usigli was the music director then. He was an 
excellent musician, but he wasn't engaged to conduct opera, which 
he was best at. He was a fiery dreamer, I would say, and an 
honest, sincere, devoted man. Maybe too sensitive, because he 
never got the positions he deserved. He was a composer too; his 
music was something like Scriabin's. 

With Usigli the performances 
time. All of us have had much to 
unveiled many a secret in correct 
I said he wasn't recognized as he 
tribute to his memory a recording 
was made. It is simply beautiful 

were very high-class for that 
learn and musical research has 
baroque interpretation. But as 
should have been. As a lasting 
of his tone poem "Prometheus" 
and exciting and deserves to be 

Gastone conducted at Temple Emanu-El, and the year after I 
did The Art c^f the Fugue there, 1950, he was so impressed that he 
did it at the Bach Festival in Carmel. 

Credit for conducting the work there must go to young Jan 
Popper, a most difficult task since there was no edition for 
chamber ensemble printed as yet and Popper and Usigli had to make 
up one for their program. My playing quite a few of the 
individual canons and fugues on the organ lightened the load and 
at the same time opened new musical horizons and understanding 
for this work, the culmination of all contrapuntal music. 

Later the Italian government honored Usigli by bestowing a 
high order on him. The affair took place in the home of Kurt 
Herbert Adler on Palm Avenue. A large and festive crowd paid 
their respect to Gastone and his wife Betsy, who were aglow with 
well-deserved pride and very happy. It was to be the last 
recognition also. Returning home Gastone suddenly got ill and 

Crawford: How was a successor chosen? 


Altman: The same year Gastone passed away, 1955, Richard Lert, then the 
conductor of the Pasadena Symphony, and Sandor Salgo stepped in 
and Sandor was the logical choice to stay as regular musical 
director. What makes me put the choice so diplomatically? Youth 
in music regarding Bach was of utmost importance. Bach research 
had finally caught up with the practical performance requirements 
of all Baroque music and the older Lert was steeped in the more 
romantic interpretation of our fathers and grandfathers. 

As one of many strange coincidences in and of my life, Lert 
was my idol during my school years in my hometown Breslau, where 
in the 1920s he brought Breslau 's musical standards up to a 
level never before nor later achieved. Lert then went as First 
Kapellmeister to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. The 
Nazi advent forced him to leave and the United States recognized 
his prominence once again. 

Once more should I have a chance to meet this great 
musician. He was guest conductor of the Oakland orchestra. (At 
a party afterwards in his honor I surprised and pleased him when I 
could remind him of the exact works he conducted because I had 
them written into my scores.) In the Los Angeles area he was 
highly regarded as a conductor and teacher, representing the 
values and traditions of the well-remembered past. 

Crawford: Back to Mr. Salgo: Did he get to conduct opera? 

Altman: No, and that was a pity since he loved to do opera. But he was 
guest conductor at the State Opera of East Berlin and also for 
the San Francisco Opera. And also in Carmel, although the 
Festival does not really call it opera; Sandor gave Mozart operas 
as well as Fidelio, and always to great applause. 

Crawford: Did the change from Usigli to Salgo also change your activity? 

Altman: Good question. No, not really. I continued my organ recitals, 
which had to be played at least twice to accommodate the crowds, 
and in my last year I played the greatest of Bach's Chorale 
collections, the complete "German Organ Mass." For that I was 
splendidly aided by Priscilla Salgo, the wife of Sandor, who 
served and still serves as chorusmis tress . 

Crawford: You mentioned that the Festival social activities were 
considerable at first. 

Altman: That has been gradually changing. When I first came to Carmel, 
the so-called social aspects were overwhelming. There were 
constantly big parties, many in Carmel Valley, because Carmel 
proper is usually cold and clammy during the Festival. 


Altman: Three gentlemen must be mentioned, however briefly, since time is 
running out on us and even an oral history must terminate some 
time. The top patron was Noel Sullivan, whose largesse and vocal 
performance of the St. Matthew Passion remain in one's memory as 
does the contribution of James (Jimmy) Schwabacher, whose singing 
and chanting as Evangelist can hardly be surpassed. For a long 
time all harpsichord work and all musical problems were referred 
to Ralph Linslay, who was called "Mister Carmel Bach Festival." 
Enough said! 

It was a privilege, honor and joy to have served as the 
"official" organist of the Carmel Bach Festival for eighteen 
consecutive years and to watch and participate in the stunning 
growth of program-making, choice of soloists, and novel ideas 
like the midnight music in the Mission. 

All this is to the credit of Maestro Salgo, and on a 
personal note I wish to thank him for asking me to play organ 
concertos with his orchestra, which he so admirably leads. 

Performing with Arthur Fiedler 

Crawford: Let's discuss your work with Arthur Fiedler in the 1950s. You 
said that Arthur Fiedler was very important to you in your 

Altman: He was the most important conductor for me. In the summer he 

came to San Francisco to conduct at the Civic Auditorium. There 
they have a fine Austin organ that had been built for and used in 
the Panama Exposition of 1915. Saint-Saens was the conductor. 
They had that large pipe organ and Arthur Fiedler programmed many 
works for organ and orchestra. The Art Commission appointed me 
as organist. I served over thirty years. For that I thank Joe 
Dyer and Martin Snipper here. 

The San Francisco Symphony, as I mentioned before, had no 
permanent organ in the opera house. They had chosen to buy a 
chandelier instead of an organ although there was to have been a 
pipe organ installed, and so they always imported an electronic 
instrument, which was never satisfactory. There was no joy in 
that, and none of the symphony conductors programmed great organ 

But Fiedler did, and I played them, and when I finished he 
would say, "What do you want to play next year?" When he was 
particularly satisfied he would engage me to come to Boston and 
play with the Boston Pops, and I did that several years, 
beginning in 1954. 


Crawford: What works did you perform with Fiedler? 

Altman: I played several of the Handel Concertos, the Haydn C major 
Concerto, several of the Mozart church sonatas, the Bossi 
Concerto, the "Cortege et Litanie" of Dupre. My greatest success 
came with my performing for the first time locally the Poulenc 
Organ Concerto in G minor, which I was asked to repeat several 
times. At that time Poulenc was considered to be quite "modern." 

Another "first" was my performance of Alfredo Casella's 
Concerto Romano in my opinion a top-notcher with an ultra- 
dazzling Toccata at the end. This I did in Boston also. 
Unfortunately, my fellow organists have not taken any interest in 
the work. What a pity! 

Finally, I combined three movements from cantatas of J.S. 
Bach, thereby producing a regular organ concerto. Again I regret 
that other organists did not take up the opportunity to perform a 
brilliant and beautiful concerto by the organists' greatest 
master, Johann Sebastian Bach. 

Also in the 1950s I played with the Standard Oil Company's 
Standard Hour radio broadcasts and for their school music 
programs. I should mention Carmen Dragon, because he was such a 
fine musician and conductor. I remember playing for them the G 
minor Concerto of Handel, a special occasion for me since this 
was the only time that Standard Oil engaged an organist as a 
soloist with orchestra. Luckily, a live recording was made and 
Standard Oil presented me with a copy, which I kept. 

Crawford: How would you evaluate Dragon's conducting style? 

Altman: His musicianship was quite similar to Arthur Fiedler. Both were 
equally interested in classical music and so-called "entertain 
ment" works, including show tunes. Both went about their 
assignments without any special ado, in a practical manner, never 
wasting precious minutes which were in too short supply anyway. 
Both were immensely successful with the public and their 
recordings hit the million mark again and again. 

One of Maestro Fiedler's ambitions remained unfulfilled: to 
become a "serious" symphony conductor and to get out from under 
the syndrome "Pops." His musical personality may be illustrated 
by two remarks: Things did not go well at a rehearsal one day, 
and after several tries he stopped the orchestra: "What 
happened; what went wrong? Am I doing something wrong? Don't 
hesitate to tell me!" The orchestra sat in stony silence until 
maestro released the tension with the remark half serious, half 
smiling, "Don't you dare!" 


Altraan: At another rehearsal, a soprano sang an unknown Meyerbeer aria 
with no rapport between vocalist and orchestra. Fiedler 
interfered with, "What is the matter, has none of you played 
Meyerbeer before?" And after a few seconds, "Aren't you lucky!" 

The Legion of Honor; Municipal Organist 




Tell me something about the organ recitals at the Legion of 
Honor. You started those in 1952 and continue with them still on 
Saturday and Sunday afternoons. 

Well, those started in 1924 when they got the Skinner organ. 

That is E.M. Skinner. The organist there at that time was Uda 

Waldrop, a genius of the first order. He could accompany in all 
keys on sight. 

Could you as well? 

Not now; maybe then, 
but not on sight. 

We had to be able to transpose in all keys, 

Anyway, Uda Waldrop was not hard-working, and he played 
always the same old pieces. He used me as his substitute, 
knowing I wouldn't try to take over his position. 

He had cancer, which was then a hopeless thing, and he took 
his own life. They asked me and Richard Purvis [to replace him], 
but there was such a huge and unruly crowd always that Purvis 
finally quit. 

Then Newton Pashley became co-organist. He played 
everything from memory. Unfortunately he was overworked and died 
suddenly, following a stroke. Then I asked for John 
Fenstermaker. I phoned him and asked if he would be interested 
and he said he would be delighted, so that is the way it is now. 
The organ there is absolutely unique, because it combines regular 
stops with percussion imitations: Chinese blocks, triangles, 
timpani, snare drums; a whole section. The audience just eats it 
up. It even has thunder no lightning! 

Two stops play in the courtyard through a frieze that lifts 
up, and the antiphonal placement of the pipes sends the sound 
throughout the Museum. This has been a fantastic opportunity for 
me, of course. I used frequently to enhance the programs by 
inviting vocal ensembles, especially the various ones under 
Winifred Baker's baton. Frequently I asked splendid local 
soloists. How many wonderful musicians there are in the Bay 


Performing in Europe 

Al tman : 
Al tman : 

After 1960 did you perform in Europe most summers? 
Every summer after. I played mostly in London. 
Who arranged those tours for you? 

For an organist it is very easy to arrange that. Let's take 
Switzerland, where at the end I played almost exclusively. Let's 
say we went to a place in the French Alps. We stopped at a nice 
hotel, where I took a little walk, and I heard the organ in the 
village church. So I went in, listened to the organist play, and 
then I made some remarks about the piece, such as "Oh, that 
sounds lovely. I do not know the piece, but I can tell you are 
playing in F major." 

That was enough to say. The organist came down from the 
organ loft and said, "Do you like organ music? Do you know about 
organ music?" "Oh, yes. I am an organist." 

"Do you know that I know you because you stopped at such or 
such a hotel. I know this because I am the proprietor!" And 
then when we got more friendly: "You must meet the organist of 
Montreux, a bigger town, who is my teacher and he has a much 
bigger organ, and you must meet." 

So there is a regular way to become acquainted with the 
local musicians and to get an invitation. 

On one occasion an organist was so pleased with my playing 
that she introduced me to her teacher, the organist of the Reform 
Church in Montreux, Pierre Pidoux. Mr. Pidoux, now retired, is 
not only an excellent organist but also an authority on Huguenot 
music, a celebrity. His articles and scholarly editions have 
made him known worldwide. 

There is a certain ritual about getting an engagement for an 
organ recital. Since it would be unprofessional to solicit 
invitations, the local organist will ask you of course, only if 
he is at all interested in you to "try the organ," and from the 
impression he gets from this "auditiony success or rejection 
result. This procedure is a good one and we all use it, myself 

Crawford: What a clever system. Where did it take you from Montreux? 





and the 

Saturday, April 22, 1989 at 2:30 p.m. 


SICUT SERVUS Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina 

"Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks, (1525 - 1594) 

so longeth my soul after Thee, God" 

NE TIMEAS MARIA Tomas Luis de Victoria 

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have (c. 1548 - 1611} 

found favour with the Lord" (Luke, i, 31-2) 


"Not unto us, Lord, but 
unto Thy name be glory" 


"We worship thee, Christ 
and we bless Thee who wast crucified 
for the redemption of the world. 
Have mercy upon us" 

i) May the words of my mouth 

Soprano Anne Perry Trapani 
ii) Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer 

1) Full Fathom Five (The Tempest) 
ii) The Cloud-Capp'd lowers une lempest) 
iii) Over hill, Over dale (A Midsummer Night's Dream) 

PSALM 150 

"0 praise God" 

the Winifred Baker Children's Chorus joins 
the Chamber groups with percussion 

William Byrd 

(1538 - 1623) 

. (Canon a 3) 

Orlandus Lassus 
(1532 - 1594) 
[Double quartet] 

Ludwig Altman 
present here today 

Ralph Vaughan Williams 
(1872 - 1958) 

Benjamin Britten 
(1913 - 1976) 





Saturday, April 22 
Sunday, April 23 
4:00 p.m. 


Introduction to a Passover Melody 

A Medley of Pilgrimage Festival Tunes 

Music for a Flute Clock 

Ludvig Alt man 
Ludwig Altman 
Wilhelm Friedeman Bach 

A first presentation: Robert Landis joins Mr. Altman 

Johann Sebastian Bach 

Three Service Voluntaries 

Passepieds One and Two (from Orchestral 
Suite in C Major) 

Andante in C minor (from a Harpsichord 

Allegro Maestoso (from a Concerto Grosso) 

Johann Christian Bach 

Georg Frederick Handel 

These concerts are sponsored in part by a grant from the California Arts 


Altman: After the concert, Mr. Pidoux phoned the organist of the 

cathedral in Lausanne, the largest church of all of Switzerland, 
telling him how well he liked my recital and so strong was his 
recommendation that the cathedral organist, Mr. Andre Luy, 
engaged me for the following year without having heard me! 

So I played in Lausanne, and this concert was attended by an 
organist from Berne, the capital city. After the concert there 
was a party given, and this organist from Berne introduced 
himself, and since I was going to Berne, he said I must look at 
his organs he had three under his command and that was the 
beginning of a lasting, very close friendship that led to many 
get-togethers. Our wives also hit it off personally. 

An Important Assignment for the BBC 

Altman: Then in London I was very anxious to play for the BBC, because of 
its great prestige and because there are funds available, a 
professional stipendium. Well, the BBC could not quite make up 
its mind, was always half warm and half cold, but once I said, 
"Why don't you send some musical spy when I play a live concert 
and you can then decide what you want to do. If yes, fine; if 
no, also fine." 

So I think they did that, because I gave a concert in London 
in the financial district, a noontime concert, and the day after 
that I got an invitation to come to the office there to see the 
man in charge. 

He had a double name; one half was Jackson and the other 
half I forgot. But he said they would like me to play a concert 
there the next time I came to London, and that they might give me 
Festival Hall. I almost fell over when he said that. I was 
scared to death! 

At the place where I had played my last concert in London, 
the organist was a lady of great ability, and she said that she 
could not hear me play because she had had to practice at 
Festival Hall. I said, "You must have a concert pretty soon," 
and she said, "Oh, no, only in November, but it is so hard to get 
any practice time on that organ because they are constantly 
recording and rehearsing all day and all night, and whenever I get 
a chance I go there and practice my programs." I thought, "Oh, 
my God, I cannot do that; I am not that good!" I cannot take a 
chance on getting an hour or two before I play the program. 


Altman: So I asked him modestly whether it would be possible to play 
somewhere where I could have more preparation time. He was a 
little bit peeved; I had hurt his feelings, but luckily he had an 
out and he said, "When I spoke about playing at Festival Hall, I 
said I might be able to get you Festival Hall," and then he 
assigned me a very fine cathedral in Islington, a part of London, 
a Catholic church just ready-made for recording. 

It was wonderful. It was a very hot day, which is rare in 
London, and we all sat there without any encumbrances. The BBC 
people set up their machinery outside the church they didn't 
even come in and we spoke to each other over the telephone and it 
was very easy. We didn't even use up the two hours allotted for 
the recording. 

But the BBC had wanted to honor me with Festival Hall organ, 
which every organist would jump at, but I wouldn't have had 
enough practice time, although the pieces I knew in my sleep. 
They had wanted two programs of half an hour each, but the point 
is that an organist needs an awfully long time to get used to a 
new organ, particularly such a huge thing as the Hall organ. 

If you have a Dupre, there is no problem because the man is 
a topnotch genius, but for me that is a different story, and I 
was scared of the riches he offered me. I asked him to scale it 
down, giving me a smaller organ and a much more modest place to 
play it in, but where I could go whenever I wanted to practice. 

Crawford: What did you record? 

Altman: He said the program should be like a meal. Different dishes to 
please everybody. Of course, that is not our theory any more 
today, but the British are very backwards that way, and whatever 
we do they do fifty years later. They are always very 

Crawford: So you chose your own program. 

Altman: Yes, under Mr. So-and-So-Jackson, who had special ideas. I 

played some Ernest Bloch; I played some Mendelssohn, and some 
Bach, all kinds of things. I specialize, of course, in music 
written for mechanical reproduction by C. P. E. Bach and 
Beethoven. That was in '68 or "69, I think. 

A Triumphant Return to Germany 

Crawford: Talk a bit about going back to Germany in 1964, which I believe 
was the first time you returned. 


Altman: Yes, that was one of the most memorable highlights of my life, 

our going back to Germany for the first time. At that time there 
was a very musical German consul-general here who made the 
connection, and I was given a tour of my own choosing, and I 
played then in Munich and several places which I've forgotten now. 
I had also a lecture at that time with an official reception in 
Berlin. That was the big thing. It was done under the auspices 
of the government and the Christian Diocese of Berlin. I have 
somewhere the posters, you know the European posters that go on 
the kiosks. Those things were pasted all around town. 

Crawford: Did you get a large audience? 

Altman: It was so crowded they ran out of programs and I had to announce 
my own program. They sent up to the organ loft to ask if I had 
any programs and I had two, so I had to give them one and one I 
brought home. The entire press came and I had about eight 
reviews. It was a great day, and some of my old teachers came. 

Crawford: That was quite an honor. So the government in Bonn invited you? 
Altman: Yes, through the connection here with the Consul, Dr. Somnier. 
Crawford: How about the lecture? 

Altman: Yes, I had a lecture but this is also different from the informal 
speaking that we do here. There, if somebody gives a lecture, he 
has to write it down and he just reads it off and then he gets 
paid for it handsomely. Particularly in Berlin where there is a 
very large radio audience and they pay you one-half the 
stipulated price before and then the second half when it has 
actually gone over the waves. 

My talk was over the radio, and I didn't even have to read 
it. They have special readers just for that, so I wrote it and 
it was read. The topic was the life of an ordinary organist in 
the United States. I have always thought of myself as a local 
musician, and I would rather be a good local musician, maybe a 
little better than the average, than to be a minor star, for 
which I have no talent anyway. 

My concert was at the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, 
the one you see in every picture of Berlin. I performed some 
hitherto unknown Mendelssohn pieces, a Fantasy and Fugue in C 
minor of Bach, and several pieces of Roger Sessions and Ellis 

I chose Sessions because I didn't know anything else of 
lasting quality. It is a sad truth that there is an immense 
amount of second-rate music written for organ. But there is a 
shortage of great music, in America particularly, written for 





Werke u.a. von J. Pachelbel - J. S 

Eintrifi frei 

Zentralstelle fur. evangelische Kirchenmusik, 


Dienstag, 23. Juni 1964, 20 Uh 

San Franciscc 

:ach - L v. Beethoven - R. Session 

Berlin 41 (Steglitz)/ BeyrrvestraBe 8 - Tel. 721398 

Eintritt fr 

Crawford ; 
Al tman : 


Altman: organ. We have Bach, and that's what we have! We depend on this 
one composer almost entirely. How many towering geniuses outside 
Bach are there who have written for organ? And how many or how 
few, how very few masterworks can we muster? 

Several years later I went again to Berlin to play at the 
Church of the Twelve Apostles. 

What did going back to Germany represent to you? 

I had very mixed feelings. I always analyze the relationship 
between the Jewish people who were once German Jews and the 
Germans. Basically, I always feel like a couple that was once 
happily married, is then divorced in an acrimonious fashion, and 
years and years and years later meet again. What happens is that 
everybody is on their best behavior, and I feel that this is the 
case whenever I go to Germany and meet German people. 

A very special case is to be made for musicians living in 
peace with the "eternal" Germany because of the music. Possibly 
three quarters of the overall repertoire was composed by German 
and Austrian composers. 

Crawford: Do you still go during the summers to play? 

Altman: Yes, but I had a heart attack and I was advised to cut down, so I 

now don't play any more, but I do a lot of work over there. Did 

I show you the recording of the Mozart? That was my project for 
the last few summers. 

A Discovery: Mozart and Works for Mechanical Organ 

Altman: There is in a very small town in Switzerland a museum of 

mechanical organ-clock pieces. In that museum alone there are 
seven hundred, I was told. I didn't count them. And possibly, 
some of those pieces are original organ-clock pieces by Mozart. 

Crawford: Yes, you showed me the music. 
Altman: Those pieces are now recorded. 
Crawford: Do you arrange for the recordings? 


Carl Pbilipp En?ai?uel Bacb 






Ludwig Altnjat) 


1978 The Sacred Music Press 
All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. 

sacreo music press 

501 THIRD STREET. DAYTON. OHIO 45401- TELEPHONE 513/228*118 



These ten charming and brilliant pieces for a mechanically activated organ clock 
are published here for the first time. The edition is based on the autograph in the Li 
brary of the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, entitled 'Stucke fiir Spieluhren auch 
Drehorgeln von C.P.E. Bach.' 

The device of using a clock mechanism to activate organ pipes, bellows, barrels, 
etc., was popular all through the Baroque era. With a growing refinement and reliabil 
ity of these instruments came an increasing interest and willingness of great composers 
to contribute original works for mechanical musical reproduction. Foremost among 
them were Handel, C.P.E. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Cherubini. 

C.P.E. Bach's clock pieces were composed during his years as court musician to 
King Frederick the Great at Potsdam. The King was intrigued with mechanically re 
produced music and had organ clocks built for the New Palais and for the City Castle 
of Potsdam. 

The edition presents the score as it appears in the Brussels manuscript; added are 
only the registration suggestions, a few manual changes, distribution between the 
hands, and some fingering all clearly marked as editorial additions. The numbering 
of the four Polonoises is original. 

While the music was intended for organ pipes, it is equally well-suited for harp 
sichord or piano. 

Ludwig Altman 






jSuitc Baroque 






Andante Antique 


No. 8225 

Price $1.50 



Altman: I would say that I am the promoter. The man who has the material 
did not realize its potential interest and value to the musical 
world, certainly to organists, because it means we have a few 
more pieces for the organ by Mozart; we have five instead of 

Crawford: Where is the town? 

Altman: The town in Seewen; a tiny place. I thought that there should be 
an edition not only of the sounds of the clock but also of the 
actual text so that one could play it, and finally they got 
somebody from Berne to listen to it long enough to write down the 
notes, and he has done more or less well. It could have been 

Additionally, this transcriber wrote the notes so small that 
one cannot really use the text, so what will be necessary is to 
get a better copy made and use many more pages. It's so small 
that to read it I have to stand on the keys! I have revised it, 
but I don't want to do it any more. Let somebody else do it! 
The clock, by the way has thirty-two soundings pipes. Seewen is 
the only place where I can hear the original clock; the rest 
I have to hear on tapes. So there is always plenty to do over 

Crawford: You have also produced the first edition of organ works, 
including a piece for mechanical organ by Beethoven. 

Altman: Many great composers among them Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, 

Handel wrote for mechanical organ. I transcribed some of them, 
including works by Carl Philipp Emanuel. There I get royalties, 
while with my Beethoven edition, of which the publisher C.F. 
Peters told me over six thousand copies sold already, I don't. I 
was so foolish I took a straight fee! 

In that edition of Beethoven are collected all of his organ 
works published for the first time. 

I also transcribed some orchestral movements of Telemann for 
the organ and gave them the title "Suite Baroque." 

Crawford: What about your Mendelssohn editions? 

Altman: To our great surprise we organists have learned of the existence 
of many single organ pieces of Mendelssohn beside the six sonatas 
and three preludes and fugues. This additional Mendelssohniana 
is most welcome, since we have only sparse representation from 
this romantic period, the first half of the last century. There 
may be up to fifty pieces! Of those, six have been published in 


Altman: my edition. In time this edition will be superseded when the 

complete Mendelssohn opus will be published by the DDR, the 

Thoughts on Composing 

Crawford: What about your compositions? What has composing meant to you? 

Altman: An organist should be able to compose some. It could be the most 
important thing of all, though it wasn't for me. 

Actually the first push in that direction came from Cantor 
Portnoy. Our music at the Temple had been for baritone soloist 
up until he came, and he was a tenor. 

So in the early 1960s I began to work on a complete sacred 
service for tenors. It was published in 1963. It is always 
difficult for me to get started, but once I did I rolled along 
and I learned to write well for voices and did many settings of 

Crawford: Which were your finest ones? 

Altman: Psalms 13 and 47. They are damn good, not to mince words! 

Later I won the Isadore Freed Prize first prize for my 
Psalm 67. It is very uneven I think; it is too long, because I 
was to enter it in the Bloch contest, where works had to be eight 
minutes long, but it won a first prize anyway! 



ftattn 67 

In the Pentatonic and Ionian Modes 
For Alto Solo, Mixed Choir and Organ 

Seventy-Five Cents 


1674 BROADWAY (at 52nd Street) 

NEW YORK, N. Y. 10019 




Service For Friday Eve and Sabbath Morning 

NEW YORK 19, N. Y. 



OVER THE years, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco made lasting 
contributions to the music of the Synagogue by commissioning and presenting 
for the first time the Sacred Services of Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud and 
Marc Lavry. It bestowed upon me the great honor and gave me the immeasurable 
joy to premiere this Service and to sponsor its publication in celebration of my 
Silver Jubilee as its organist and recently its choir director. 

IN WRITING this work I was guided by two primary considerations based 
on long years of experience: the desire to provide musical settings short and 
concise enough to fit into the liturgical framework of the customary Sabbath 
Service; and the consideration for the average temple's musical personnel 
whose rehearsal time is frequently too limited to permit the preparation of 
overly difficult prayer settings. 

THERE ARE many persons to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude: to Rabbi 
Alvin I. Fine and Rabbi Meyer Heller for their guidance and inspiration, to 
Cantor Joseph L. Portnoy whose beautiful singing and constant encouragement 
led to the completion of this work, to Cantor Reuben R. Rinder who was 
responsible for my affiliation with the temple and thus for the start of my 
musical career in this country, and to the temple choir, one of the finest vocal 
ensembles in the West. 

LAST BUT not least, my heart-felt thanks are due to Mr. Samuel I. Jacobs, 
President of Congregation Emanu-El, to Mr. David L. Wolf, Chairman of its 
Ritual and Music Committee, to Mr. Richard L. Sloss, Past President and 
Chairman of the "Altman Anniversary Committee," to Mr. G. Marvin 
Schoenberg, Executive Secretary, whose practical assistance has been most 
valuable to me, and to each and every member of this beloved congregation. 

San Francisco, California 

January, 1963 L A. 


[Interview 3: April 27, 19881 ## 

An Opportunity to Perform with the WPA Orchestra 

Crawford: We've just begun looking through pictures of your days with the 
symphony, and that's what I wanted to ask you about today. When 
did you first begin to work with the San Francisco Symphony? 

Altman: Well, actually I always had interest in the symphony even when I 
was a little bit younger and still in Berlin. As I mentioned, 
the Jewish people had their own theater and their own symphony 
orchestra, which was conducted by very prominent people. You 
might know the name of Wilhelm Steinberg, William Steinberg he 
called himself in this country, who was the conductor for the 
Pittsburgh Symphony and also, by the way, conducted our symphony 
very often, as well as our opera company. 

One of those well-known conductors was Joseph Rosenstock, 
who later on became a conductor at the Met. In 1750 Bach died, 
and Handel died seven years later. They were both born in 1685, 
so 1935 was their one hundred fiftieth anniversary. Mr. 
Rosenstock agreed to have me play one of the Handel organ 
concertos with the orchestra that year and that was actually my 
orchestral debut. 

I always was very interested in performing with an 
orchestra, mainly because symphonic music was the most brilliant 
and most intoxicating, particularly for a young man, so I was 
very anxious to try to establish myself in my new country by 
being affiliated and associated in some way with the symphony. 

This went actually a little quicker than I hoped for, 
because of the chance to play with the WPA orchestra in 1937, as 
I mentioned earlier. 


Altman: You remember I set great hope on the [Hammond] instrument and on 
the innovation, although, of course, the sound was not really 
like a pipe organ; it was pretty bad, but there was, on my part 
at least, great hope for that instrument and for its improvement, 
but this basic shortcoming, that it does not really sound like an 
organ, has made it very disliked by the entire profession. 

That doesn't mean that there were not individual organists 
of great ability who were willing to go along under all 
circumstances and be sponsored, more or less, by the company 

Well, as it happened, Pierre Monteux liked the Hammond 
organ I don't know why and he was always with me and always 
wanted to hear things, and he had a Hammond organ in his home in 
Hancock, Maine. He played on it, and he had the idea that while 
it sounded very well in his home, it would not sound quite as 
well in a large hall because really only the softer sounds were 
pleasing, and to some extent imitated the pipe organ. 

In a large hall it was a different story, so we organists 
have stayed away from electronic instruments ever since, but 
certainly other companies have made progress, and it is now 
definitely a far better instrument than the early Hammond organ, 
which on the other hand was a pioneering thing in the line of 
electric sound. 

Crawford: You mentioned the WPA orchestra. I think you said Leslie Hodge 
conducted it then. Talk a little bit about that, please. 

Altman: Well, it was a very good orchestra, and quite a few members of 
that orchestra went later on into the regular symphony. The 
situation at that time this is 1930s was a very bad one 
economically. A tremendous number of people were out of work and 
musicians too were badly off. 

The government decided to do something about it, and so we 
had all kinds of artistic things, like certain people would paint 
walls you know artistically, not just graffiti and others did 
this and that. We in music had the good fortune to have an 
orchestra so that young or older musicians could have a place 
where they could learn the craft playing in a symphony orchestra, 
getting to know the repertoire, and there was some financial 
support, of course. 

Crawford: From the government? 

Altman: From the government, and this was WPA. 

Crawford: Works Progress Association. 


More About Alfred Hertz 








Yes. They practiced and rehearsed all the time, and we in San 
Francisco were doubly fortunate because we had Alfred Hertz as 
the head of it. 

Alfred Hertz then was a top-notch musician, and he came to 
San Francisco as a conductor of the symphony from New York, where 
he conducted the first performances of Parsifal outside of 
Bayreuth in 1903. He was a crippled man like FDR, by the way he 
had polio but he could move to some extent and he could drive 
very well. An extremely jovial man, and I have some pictures of 
him with me, if you would like to see them. 

Yes. I would. 

What was the fuss about the U.S. premiere of 

Parsifal was conceived by Richard Wagner to be performed only in 
Bayreuth, and the reason was that he considered, and all the 
Bayreuth clan did so too, that it was not just an ordinary opera 
but sort of a religious devotional experience. In other words, 
it was something that went way deeper than the ordinary day-by- 
day opera performance, and so he decided that it should be 
only performed in Bayreuth. 

Wagner called it Ein Buhnenweihfestspiel , which means a 
celebration, and it was celebrated like some religious people 
will celebrate the Mass, for instance. It was protected by 
copyright law, and that eventually ran out, because it was after 
all published like all other publications, and so Parsifal was 
occasionally staged. Nowadays, of course, they do it all the 
time. But right after the year 1900 it was still very daring. 

You told me how you came to meet Mrs. Hertz. 

Yes. That's right by sitting a row apart in front of her. 

You told me about the rivalry between the Hertz and the Monteux 


Not on a personal level because they were good friends, 
naturally, and both so great in their ways that nobody had to be 
jealous of the other. So in those cases, it was the women, the 
wives. Not that they envied each other's looks. For instance, 
Mrs. Hertz was a very gaunt, tall woman, and Mrs. Monteux was a 
roly-poly. It was over the fame of their husbands. Of course, 
Monteux was more in the beginning of his career by comparison, 
and younger. But in any case, Monteux was not really the 
successor to Alfred Hertz because there was one or two years in 
between. There was Issay Dobrowen from 1930 to 1934. 


The Trials of a Symphony Organist 

Crawford: How did you formalize your relationship with the symphony in 

Altman: Monteux came to my first concert , my debut concert in San 

Francisco, and he was brought by Mrs. Koshland. She took him to 
the temple, and I played nothing but Max Reger, and at the end 
the Passacaglia of Bach. 

Monteux, after the concert was over, came up to the organ 
loft and said, "Ludwig, join the musicians union, and then in six 
months, I can make you the organist of the symphony. He was so 
impressed by my playing and the reason I don't know if I was so 
great was that there was not too much talent in San Francisco I 
mean top-notch organists. We had a number of good organists but 
not many. There were, I would say, three or four. 

The symphony job was always dreaded because it requires a 
special talent and great courage. 

Crawford: Could you elaborate on that? 

Altman: You have to have a lot of courage because the rehearsals are 

usually very short, and the organ situation is always different 
each time. One day you play on a four-manual organ; everything is 
perfect; next day, an electronic organ; the third day on God 
knows what. 

Crawford: For rehearsals you mean? 

Altman: No, no, even for concerts, too. 

Crawford: Even now that they have the new Ruffatti organ? 

Altman: No, no. Now everything is stabilized in Davies Hall. 

Crawford: We're talking about 1940. 

Altman: Also the organ parts are usually very short and always very loud. 
My predecessors, who were roped into playing those parts, made 
some dreadful, dreadful, unspeakably terrible mistakes, in other 
words, coming in fortissimo in another key, or coming in a little 
bit late. There are all kinds of things which can happen there. 
Even with very good players and very good musicians. 


Altman: The 1812 Overture of Tchaikovsky comes to mind, where if you come 
in wrong, duddle duddle, duddle duddle, duddle duddle duddle 
duddle, duddle duddle, bom bom bom, bom, God forbid they come in 
with a bar too soon or too late. It's just hell! 

Crawford: So you have a brief moment, and it has to be right? 

Altman: That's just it. Alfred Hertz always liked to tell the story of 
the Lohengrin prelude where the percussionist has to strike the 
cymbals twice. He did it always right, but in the performance he 
did it wrong, and so he committed suicide. [laughter] 

Crawford: Is it a true story? 

Altman: No, no, no. That is just a story, but in a way, it tells you the 
problem there. 

Crawford: Was there lots of pressure on you as the organist? 

Altman: The pressure is colossal. 

Crawford: So you joined the ATM, I assume? 

Altman: The American Federation of Musicians? Yes, that's right. 

Crawford: And then Monteux appointed you formally? 

Altman: Monteux, yes, and my name was always on the membership list in 

the program. I was on that for over thirty years. I was only an 
"extra." In other words, I was never a tenured member, although 
through all the years I played the organ parts. I was always at 
the bottom line of the payroll, but it was all right; it was 
good. I was not like a concertmaster or anything I was never an 
appointed member, but I was always on the list. 

Crawford: You didn't have the union benefits then? 

Altman: I had no benefits. I got paid when I played, and that was it. 
Today they put you on the personnel list in the program only if 
you are tenured, so were I to play today, I would not be on that 
list. I would be playing, but my name would not appear in print 
anywhere . 

I was not the only one in this category. For instance, take 
the second harpist. The symphony always had two harpists, but 
one usually was tenured and the other one not. 

Crawford: How often did you play with the symphony, more or less, in a 
year's time? 


Altman: It depended on the conductor. The most demands on me were made by 
Maestro Ozawa, because I was engaged for organ parts and also for 
second piano and celesta parts. 

Now there was a curious situation there which might have a 
certain interest from the social point of view. The symphony 
like all cultural enterprises is not like a corporation, which is 
dependent on profit and cannot otherwise operate. A symphony can 
operate very well with a deficit; not very well, but it can 

In the symphony that meant to be prudent and careful with 
spending dollars was important, and in my position as organist it 
resulted in the engagement of an organist only if it really was 
necessary. Now that is a strange thing because some composers 
wrote parts which they called organo ad_ libitum. That meant that 
it should have organ, but if no organ was available the piece 
could be played without organ. The conductor or composer 
could and would put in a strong demand to have the organ, even for 
short parts. 

Crawford: Who made the decision? 

Altman: The personnel manager, who has to engage all the extra players, 
played a part in it too. Is there something wrong in saying 

Crawford: Not at all. One of my questions was what benefits do the 
musicians have today that they didn't have before? 

Altman: Well, that would be one. If it says in the score and if the 

notes are there for the part, you get the part to hell with the 
money. The conductor doesn't even have to argue anymore. 

Crawford: What would they do before, simply not have the organ part? 
Altman: No, the conductor always prevailed. I also pushed a little bit. 
Crawford: But there used to be an argument about it. 

Altman: Well, we are all peaceful people, but it was discussed. There 

was another thing [that] played into it. The case have you ever 
heard of doubling money? You have. Well, doubling money had 
also a bearing on this situation, namely, you got twenty-five 
percent more if you played a second instrument. Now the main 
pianist during many years of the symphony was Reina Schivo. Her 
husband, by the way, is Leslie Schivo, who played the English 
Horn beautifully. 


Altman: Reina played the violin in the orchestra, but she was also a 

piano player and played the piano parts for the symphony. But 
very often the score called for piano, and also for organ and 
celesta. So Reina would always get doubling pay if she played 
because she was a tenured member as a violinist; she would get 
twenty-five percent more when she played the piano part. 

Then they would hire me, for instance, and then I would play 
organ. That would be my regular pay, plus twenty-five percent 
if I also played the celesta, or it could be a combination of 
organ and second piano, four-hand. That happens also. 

For instance, the Symphony ojf the Psalms by Stravinsky that 
has two pianos, not four-hand, but two pianos. 

Crawford: Stravinsky conducted that here in 1936, I believe; his debut with 
the San Francisco Symphony. 

Altman: Yes. That work is one of several like that. Or a lot of Bartok 
is that way. So, in other words, then I would be engaged with 
doubling pay. 

Pierre Monteux: 1935-1952 

Crawford: Let's talk about the conductors, because you have worked with 

several conductors, and Monteux was certainly an important one in 
terms of influencing the taste in San Francisco. 

Altman: Yes. Monteux was a phenomenal musician. I would say that the 

only one comparable in ability that I know is Ozawa, particularly 
because Ozawa has a phenomenal memory, but he also has the 
artistry. Monteux's memory was also phenomenal: he had memorized 
not only the entire standard repertoire of the symphony, but also 
all the concertos. Also, he knew a lot about chamber music and 
knew it well. 

To give you an example, let me tell a funny little story, and 
here I wish to interject once more that I hope that I don't talk 
too much about myself and appear as a very conceited, arrogant 
person. I try to tell things which are characteristic of my 
personal story. 

Monteux went around the campuses to interest young people in 
music and the symphony, and he always took live musicians from 
the symphony to give some musical entertainment at the same time 
so the students would enjoy the whole thing more. On some of 
those occasions, I was asked by the manager of the symphony, who 
was Julius Haug at that time, to play. 






Haug was the personnel manager, also the principal in the second 
violin section, and he was the funniest imitator of conductors. 
When Julius Haug entertained, he had the public in stitches, and 
you might as well go home if you had anything to say; you would 
not be a success after him. 

Once I was asked to go with one of those little tours to 
Moraga College. And Maitre went we called him Maitre Maitre 
Monteux with his wife, who was indispensable, and that little 
dog, Fifi, always lying underneath the piano. Fifi made no 
disagreeable noises if he liked the music; at least that was the 
way the Monteux took it Fifi the music critic! 

I was to play the piano, which I really hadn't done to such 
an extent for such a long time; I was by then a 100 percent, 
full-time organist. As we sat down to a marvelous dinner, Maitre 
turned to me and said, "Ludwig, what will you play?" 

Now I was scared to death because I knew I had to play from 
memory and I really hadn't practiced much. I didn't want to play 
something he would know from memory, so I decided on the F minor 
Fantaisie of Chopin. Tee dum, ta dee dum, ta dee dum, ta dum. 
So I told Maitre I thought I'd try it, and he said, "Oh, you'll 
do it beautifully. You know when I was in Paris, I was living 
next door to a pianist who learned that piece, and I heard him 
play it so many times that I learned it from memory." [laughter] 

But Maitre was wonderful. He killed you with genuine 
kindness, and he loved music. He didn't listen in order to find 
a mistake, but because he really enjoyed listening. 

You said Mrs. Monteux was indispensable. She was always with him? 

Yes. It was the olden times with a patriarchal system. In other 
words, the conductor could get away with things he couldn't do 
today. Today it's harder on the conductor and the whole thing 
has changed, but at that time the wife of the conductor could, 
for instance, sit at all the rehearsals and then dictate that the 
men have to wear toupees. Some of them had no hair anymore. 

She could make these kinds of decisions? 

Yes, and she did. 

Was that appreciated or not? 

No, it was disliked by the orchestra, hated, 
the wife sits up there. 

That's not good if 


Crawford: It wouldn't be tolerated today, certainly. 

Altman: It would not even occur. No, it's much more professional. 

But Monteux's musicianship was overwhelming, a man who knew 
everything and had perfect pitch; he could actually hear it. A 
conductor can know the score to the last inning with all the 
details, but not necessarily spot what goes wrong. An orchestra 
finds out in one minute the strengths or shortcomings of the man 
with the stick; it's uncanny. 

For instance, if something goes wrong, let's say, a 
conductor like Monteux stops the orchestra and says the second 
oboe should play E-flat, not E-natural. Other lesser conductors 
might just say simply, "Let's do that again." 

Crawford: They don't know how to pinpoint the problem. 

Altman: That means they don't know, yes. The orchestra doesn't mind that 
if there is no pretense. 

Crawford: Monteux, of course, favored the French repertoire somewhat. Was 
he adventurous? 

Altman: Yes, indeed. He is immortal because he was the musician who gave 
the premieres of those famous, famous ballet scores, and the most 
famous, of course, The Rite f Spring. Then he did Daphnis and 
Chloe by Ravel. That is no slouch either. Those were world 
premieres in Paris. 

Crawford: When he was in San Francisco, did he challenge the audience? 

Altman: Indeed, yes. He was one with the orchestra. Definitely, yes. 
Sometimes he tried to get out of conducting some of those very 
modern scores, and he tried to get the composer to conduct, but he 
didn't always get away with that. 

Crawford: So many composers conducted their works during Monteux's years: 

Stravinsky six times, Gershwin, Schoenberg, Milhaud, Ernst Bacon, 

Altman: Yes. I remember once he played a very modern symphony and asked 
the composer to conduct, and when he refused, the old man had to 
learn the score, which he did. 

The composer came to the last rehearsal with a score. The 
piece ends with a solo flute and one viola and afterwards Maitre 
turned around to the composer and asked if it was correct the way 
he did it. The composer answered, "Yes, it sounded fine except 
at the end. The orchestra played so loud that one could not 
really hear the flute." 


Altman: Maitre didn't say a word, but he turned around and said to the 

orchestra, "The orchestra is one viola." Do you get it? Nobody 
was playing except the flutist and one viola, and the composer 
said the viola was so loud that one cannot even hear the flute 
solo. So Maitre said to the orchestra that the composer had 
forgotten that at that moment the viola represented the whole 
orchestra. [laughter] 

That reminds me of another funny thing which happened while 
I was still in Berlin. In one of the synagogues, the choir 
director and the organist didn't see eye to eye. They couldn't 
stand each other, and the choir director was really overbearing 
and unfair. 

Once they rehearsed some part of the liturgy with the 
organist and the organist's shoe laces got untied. So he stepped 
away from the console and bent down to tie them and the choir 
conductor was with his back to him. After a minute or two, the 
director said, "The organ is too loud." But the organist wasn't 
playing at all! [laughter] 

Crawford: Did Monteux have an unusual sense of humor? 
Altman: Definitely. In a very quiet way. 

But he was only interested in music. In my opinion he had 
very little interest in anything else. Music was his whole 
universe. It was very funny when you were with him or near him 
at a dinner party. He would be tapping out rhythms. He had also 
perfect sense of timing, and could say if the metronome were 
sixty-five or seventy-five. He could hit it on the spot. 

Crawford: So he was working in his head 

Altman: Completely. When he heard a story told with the punch line at 
the end, he would give the impression of hearing it, but he would 
actually not hear it. When it was over, he would turn to the 
person and say, "Pardon?" He had not listened at all. He was 
absorbed with music in his mind. 


Playing on the Hammond Organ in the Opera House 
Instead of a Pipe Organ 

Crawford: Did he have you play any of the Messiaen or the Widor organ 
works any of the great French repertoire? 

Altman: Yes, the most' important , the Symphony for Organ of Saint-Saens. 
I performed it at a concert at which the very young Isaac Stern 
played the Mendelssohn, and I played the organ for the Saint- 
Saens Symphony, and at the beginning of the program also one of 
the Handel concertos on the Hammond organ. I got very 
complimentary reviews for that. 

Crawford: The Saint-Saens you played on the pipe organ? 

Altman: No, also the Hammond. It was also on the same program. 

Crawford: Did they have just a Hammond organ then? 

Altman: Yes. Miserable in the opera house. You know the chandelier? 

Instead of the chandelier there should have been an organ. Did 
you know that? 

Crawford: I had heard that, yes, but it was too expensive. 

Altman: I think it was $35,000 for an organ for the opera house, which 
they badly needed, and instead they spent the money on that 
chandelier. But they built speaking alcoves 

Crawford: For pipes. 

Altman: For pipes. There was supposed to be a real pipe organ. 

Yes. Scandalous, it was. They now have nothing but a 
Baldwin organ, which is no great shakes. But they could have at 
least bought top-notch equipment for the opera house. The best 
available electronic organ could have been installed, and it 
would have been much better than those which they imported. 

Crawford: So they brought an organ in. Was Monteux happy with that? 

Altman: Yes, he had a Hammond in him home in Maine, as I said, and he 
evidently liked it, and on that thing I had to play. 

I will never forget Dimitri Mitropulos Do you remember 
Dimitri Mitropulos? 

Crawford: I never heard him. 


Altman: Oh, he was the most marvelous person on earth, almost like a 
saint, a wonderful idealist. He had, I have a notion, a very 
broad-minded intellectual capacity. 

Crawford: And he was a guest conductor? 

Altman: Yes. He was the regular conductor for Minneapolis for the 
symphony there and then in New York for the New York 
Philharmonic. He died very young, and it's a real pity. He 
could conduct all the modern stuff. 

Now you might ask how come I can tell all those stories 
since I'm really, as our symphony goes, a very small potato. The 
reason is Naoum Blinder our concertinas ter at the time. 

I played for most of his students and [interruption] 
sometimes he invited conductors to his home for supper. I would 
sit at the same table, very often next to the conductor, because 
it was thought that I would be interesting to the conductor, to 
Monteux or whomever, because of my background and my interests in 
all phases of music. So I had those opportunities thrown at me. 
I could never arrange anything like that by myself! 

Crawford: So you got to know them a little bit personally. 

Altman: Yes, if only very little. By the way, in my dealings with very 
important people, I never abused the privilege. In other words, 
I would not pester them because I had been with them once or a 
second or third time. I felt a sense of responsibility for their 

Crawford: Well, Monteux you must have been very close to? 

Altman: Yes. 

Crawford: Did they socialize, the Monteux? 

Altman: Yes, but only musically. The big shots, money givers this I 
don't know. 

Crawford: What about the money givers? I think Mr. Skinner was very good 
at that. 

Altman: Yes, but that was his job. And then under him was Joe Scafidi. 

For the pops concerts in summer at the civic auditorium it was Joe 
Dyer as impresario and the famous Arthur Fiedler as conductor. 




Crawford ; 


Enrique Jorda; 1952-1963 

Shall we move on to the next conductors? 
Maestro Jorda. 

We could talk about 

Jorda was ) in a way, a sad case in that he went in like a lion 
and came out like a beaten lamb. And let me say at the outset 
that I'm one of his admirers mainly because I feel the critics 
were unfair and in this case critics were not only the handful 
of professional critics but the audience at large. When we set 
ourselves up as critics, [we] must weigh the situation carefully. 
This was not done in Jorda 's case at all. The abysmal ending 
was, in my opinion, unpardonable and totally unfair. 

One strong side of Maestro Jorda was his appreciation of and 
excellent work with choirs. He was eminently talented as a choir 
conductor, and that added something almost totally neglected 
before he came. 

I heard Monteux express that a Bach Passion I almost even 
hate to say it now after my expressions of the genuine affection 
and admiration for Maitre but he said it himself that he was 
bored by the choral masterworks of Bach. 

How could that be? 

Because at that time the great conductors performed Baroque 
music, if it was given, in a romantic way. If Liszt played 
Bach's music, he would play an adaptation by Liszt. 

But Jorda played it as it was meant to be performed? 

Much more so, yes. 
performed it. 

Today we go even further. But at least he 

He was also outstanding in Spanish music, not that it is the 
greatest contribution to the history of music, but it is a 
contribution. He was excellent for local musicians, and you 
could always talk to him. He was like a father. 

The mistakes he made were all resolvable, but nobody knew 
how to approach him on his technical shortcomings. For instance 
when we did Berlioz, which basically he did very well. There are 
certain places where you can just beat in a certain way, which 
were very easy, but he would not know that and would not do it, 
and nobody would dare go up to him because [he] would risk his 

Crawford: Was it the musicians who were discontented with Jorda? 


Altman: Yes, the musicians, because he did not know the scores. The 

reason why he didn't was also not entirely his fault. He came 
from a small situation in Capetown in South Africa. 

When he first came, he knew his scores very well, but later 
he was overwhelmed by our awfully long seasons. He said he had 
to conduct eighty-plus concerts a season and he just could not, 
in my opinion, learn those tons and tons of scores. In the case 
of other conductors, it was evidently possible. In the case of 
Jorda, after a while he had exhausted what he did in Capetown and 
wherever he was before and he was just overwhelmed by this 
immense task. Usually people in the top jobs have the necessary 

I invited Jorda to the Temple to see my organ and you know 
what I discovered? That he was an organ student of Marcel Dupre. 
Nobody knew that. Dupre also had played a recital at my Temple. 

Then Jorda said suddenly, "Do you by any chance know 
Gunther Pulvermacher?" I said, "Not only do I know him, we went 
to school together." We passed the final examination together 
for the so-called Abitur. Jorda said, "He was my best friend in 
Capetown. Actually his wife and my wife they are bosom 

So that was my introduction to Jorda. When he came here, 
you have no idea how much enthusiasm he created after Monteux, 
but at the end he began to bore the audience. Our audience in 
San Francisco is wonderful and all that, but fickle. You can 
only stay popular for so long. 

Crawford: Is that so? 

Altman: Yes. 

Crawford: And what happened with Monteux did the critics get down on him? 

Altman: Yes. For instance, Monteux would make a correction in the 

orchestra, but would not insist strongly on discipline. And now, 
by contrast, came the young, very enthusiastic, ebullient 

Crawford: Latin. 

Altman: Latin, yes. He always busted a button, and things like that. I 
remember the first concerts he gave he gave the "Liebestod" and 
also a Haydn symphony that was absolutely gorgeous. He was 
received with the highest approval possible. 

Crawford: San Francisco likes stars. 


Altman: He was not much of a star at that moment because he was really 
not too well known, but then he became a star. You are 
absolutely correct; that is very common. 

The first year they call the year of discovery or something 
like that, when he bowled everybody over the orchestra also, and 
they played with a finesse and a refinement derived from his 
wonderful articulation as an organist. 

An organist has to be very, very sensitive to sound. That's 
our main thing. The sound and the contrast in sound and the 
balances and all that, and he had that because he could not have 
been a pupil of Dupre if he didn't have it. Dupre was the 
greatest teacher there was in the whole world. But then, 
gradually, the nemesis set in. 

Another of Jorda's good points was the interest he took in 
local composers. He took an interest in their scores and 
conducted quite a few of them: Sheinfeld, Imbrie, Emmanuel 
Leplin, and many others. 

Crawford: The audience supported that too doing new works by local 

Altman: Yes. But their support decreased. You could just sense it. 

Then there was the other thing: he was an extremely gregarious 
person; he just loved people and would sit there all night and 
talk. He was very fond of talking to professors, musicologists 
about the scholarly aspects of music. That was his niche. 

Crawford: Talk more about Jorda if you like. 

Altman: It is a dangerous thing, in conducting a major symphony like 

ours, to talk because the players never want anybody to tell them 
anything. You must never talk to the orchestra express 
everything in your conducting, or if you have to talk, absolutely 
the shortest, most direct way. 

Crawford: So he talked too much? 

Altman: Completely. In other words, their idea is the conductor at the 
most should say, "Louder, or softer, faster, or slower." I am 
overstating, of course. 

Crawford: How did the discontent manifest itself? 

Altman: "don't give me such a bad time." That would be roughly the 


Al tman : 

Altman: The final blow, that even cost Frankenstein his job, came when 
Szell wrote a letter of answer to Frankenstein's letter and 
mailed both to the Examiner, stating that the San Francisco 
Symphony under Jorda was the poorest he had ever seen anywhere. 
Instead of answering this letter with another letter, he was so 
furious at the request that Jorda conduct in Cleveland he 
published the whole thing in public. 

Frankenstein was kicked out of the Chronicle as a music 
critic and he became then the art critic. 

Why was Frankenstein so pro-Jorda? 

Because Frankenstein is cut from the same cloth. That is a 
different kind of mentality, and basically I sympathize with 
that. Jorda had that bigger, expansive world picture and musical 
knowledge. Not the technical perfection but feeling and 
knowledge behind that. 

But you see, somebody could have told him the conducting 
flaws. All he had to be told would have been, "Don't spend so 
many gregarious hours with people who are of interest to you, 
even if that includes Ludwig Altman. Study the scores. Sit 
there. Study, study, study, not only the melody, but everything. 
If you have problems, if the boys don't seem to follow correctly, 
ask some experienced person to go over [it]." 

Crawford: But nobody said that to him? 

Altman: Who could? The concertmaster , Mr. Blinder, couldn't do it 

because he developed some problems with his vision and had to 
quit the symphony. He was really in between the members of the 
orchestra and the conductor, so under certain conditions, he 
could have gone to the conductor and helped heal the situation. 

Crawford: With whom was Jorda popular? 

Altman: With local composers, music professors, historians who idolized 

him. It was a dirty shame that Jorda was given no credit for his 
programming unknown classics, choral masterworks, Spanish music, 
his interest in works of local composers. 

Crawford: So Jorda was released. 

Altman: Yes, it was very sad. It was so acrimonious. 

Mrs. Jorda did not come to San Francisco any more. They 
have a beautiful home in Brussels, and I think now he's retired. 
He wrote a book, by the way, How t Conduct Symphony Rehearsal. 
I'm very curious to read that. He wrote it for Pelican 


Josef Krips; 1963-1970 

Crawford: So then after that, we had Maestro Krips. 

Altman: Now when Krips came I still remember the first rehearsal I was 
backstage, just very curious [about] what he was like. Our 
personnel manager was Al White, a violist. I approached White 
and White said with great sincerity, "He is absolutely first- 
class . " 

Krips proved to be that way. You know that he was taller 
than you would have thought when you saw pictures of him, very 
heavyset, constantly smoking. Whenever Krips was in, the whole 
neighborhood smelled. [laughter] 

He was very religious, and his faith illumined his 
conducting vocal music. It was a pity that he did not conduct 
opera in San Francisco. Emmy and I heard him do Zauberf lote 
(Magic Flute) in Wiesbaden with the entire personnel of the 
Vienna State Opera and he was fabulous. 

I still remember that first year he had never met me, and I 
was scared that he might have [reservations] I don't know for 
what reason. Then we met him by chance and he was charming, and 
so I thought he might really enjoy seeing the beautiful organ 
which I had at the Temple; so he came and I played for him, and I 
think he liked it very much and began hiring me. 

By the way, regarding Monteux. When he came to Temple 
Emanu-El to hear me play, after he had heard my debut concert, I 
played for him the Schoenberg Variations on Recitative. That 
is about the meanest thing there is in organ music, up to now. 
I'm still the only organist in the Bay Area who has learned that 
piece. I tried my darndest to have this and that organist learn 
it, and some have begun learning it, but nobody [did] the 
trouble is that it is, particularly in the initial part, the 
hardest. The second half or so, or at least the last third, is 
simple by contrast. 

But, in any case, for Krips, it was Mozart. It was very 
easy after Monteux because there was not too much organ use, not 
too much piano either because it was a much more traditional 
program, needing few extra players. 

Crawford: Much more nineteenth-century music under Jorda? 

Altman: Yes, but Monteux knew all that, too. But for Krips, that was his 
bread and butter. That is how he grew up, after all. Monteux 
grew up with Debussy, with that circle. 


Crawford: So the French really made more of the keyboard in their music? 

Altman: Yes, the nineteenth century in organ is the revival of the organ 
as an instrument, particularly through the famous Cavaille-Coll . 
That is the most important organ company of the nineteenth 
century. There were all kinds of organs all over, of course, but 
that was the newest trend, the Cavaille-Coll type. 

Crawford: For whom did you play the most after Monteux? 

Altman: Ozawa. But mostly that was on celesta. I played far more 

celesta than before. Krips did sometimes put in organ. For 
instance, I played the Creation of Haydn with organ, and [he] put 
the organ in. Oh, yes, the masses. Whenever Krips did works 
with choir, he liked to have organ there. I did a lot of music 
that way. I played actually quite often under him, but I don't 
remember all of the pieces. 

Crawford: What was he like as a conductor? 

Altman: Well, he was of the school which was one generation before mine, 
although he was born in 1902. When he came to us, he must have 
been in his sixties, upper sixties. He was a real authoritarian 
man but with great charm, businesslike and very religiously 
inclined. I really think that his faith meant a great deal to 
him. He went through a very disturbed period as a very, very 
young opera conductor, and here there were some problems with the 
Nazi regime, some real problems because one of his parents was 
Jewish in the eyes of the Nazi regime. 

I think he lost his position in Karlsruhe and then he went 
back to Vienna where there were problems. He was not deprived of 
a livelihood completely, but he could not conduct. I don't know 
if it was at the Staatsoper or the other opera company or the 
symphony orchestra. He made his living coaching singers, I 
think, mostly. He was permitted to do that, and, of course, 
after the Hitler horror was over, he began again, I believe, in 

You know that his wife died rather suddenly and that he 
married Henrietta, a Viennese girl who was with the Kripses as a 
companion to Mrs. Krips. When Mrs. Krips died, evidently the 
feelings of the younger companion and Maestro Krips came to the 
fore, and they got married. He told me it seemed to be the 
natural thing; it was like preordained. 

I remember tremendous performances under him, like the Ninth 
(from memory!) or the Mozart Mass at St. Ignatius on his 
seventieth birthday or Bruckner's Third Symphony. 


Altman: Unfortunately, at the moment of his greatest triumphs he 
contracted cancer, which felled him. 

Crawford: What was his repertoire like? 

Altman: His repertoire was basically the regular German/Austrian 

Furtwangler program, like von Karajan would conduct. They did 
everything the older things like Bach were done but not with the 
last degree of stylistic accuracy and they went up to the young 

Crawford: A fairly limited range? 

Altman: Yes, but the limited range was the right range for Austria and 
for Germany and for Holland and for Scandinavia. 

The Kripses were friendly towards us, and they always took 
an interest whenever I played in Switzerland. They have a home 
in Montreux on Lake Geneva and there they would invite us. 

Sometimes when I played a concert there, they threw a little 
party for us afterwards, and the last year of his life, when he 
was already in very bad health, we were invited to afternoon 
cafe. Mrs. Krips went down to the cafe patisserie, Konditorei, 
and bought cake, and he made the coffee. He opened the door when 
we came, and we knew we would not see him after that anymore, yet 
he was still doing quite well on that afternoon and was 
anticipating many conducting opportunities and recordings. He 
had no axe to grind anymore, and he felt good in talking to 
somebody who could understand him. 

At that point he had better contracts than ever before to do 
big, big, big things in the central musical circles of the world. 
What I remember the most is that he was to record all of the 
Mozart symphonies for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. 
With the Paris Opera he had Cosi fan tutte coming with Margaret 
Price. One big job after another. He knew everything that he 
was supposed to conduct, and on which day, and he probably also 
knew he would not do them. 

We spoke at great length about the relationship between an 
orchestra and its conductor, and he said that his kind of 
conductor was going out. The idea that a conductor sits in the 
same place all year long and conducts constantly the same 
orchestra and has the same responsibility for how to get the 
money, how to get the publicity, how to get the soloist, how to 
get the programs, was becoming intolerable to him. 

Seiji Ozawa: 197Q-I977 

Crawford: Well, let's talk about Ozawa then. He's the last one you worked 
under, I believe. 

Aitman: Under him it was absolutely stunning. He did really modern 
things. It was a radically changed program because of that. 
Then with Ozawa, the charm of him as a person as well as 
his excellent memory, also his musical ear was absolutely 
marvelous. So when he came he could do no wrong and he did not 
do wrong. The program became modern, including for the first 
time Japanese music, which we never had heard before. He could 
bring the thing off. 

He could, for instance, have a rehearsal the last rehearsal 
is always Wednesday morning and in the evening he would conduct 
the whole thing from memory. 

Crawford: Are San Francisco audiences more interested in modern music than 

Aitman: Yes. I ascribe our climate to that. I think that the climate 
has a far greater influence on the lives and on the thinking of 
people than anything else. We have a benign climate, and we have 
basically a more benign attitude towards each other than those 
who live under rougher temperatures. 

Crawford: Does that make more people willing to be in the theater, to go to 
the theater? 

Aitman: I would say, yes. Living in Hew York with all those blizzards, 
would you rather stay in or out? 

But speaking of Ozawa, I had increased activity under him, 
and I knew that I would not maintain it much longer because it 
just was not possible for me to be away from my job at the Temple 
so often. 

The orchestra has always had Saturday morning rehearsals, 
the first rehearsal of the next week's program. And the next 
rehearsals were Tuesday morning and afternoon, two rehearsals. 
And on Wednesday morning the last rehearsal for Wednesday night, 
which was the first performance. That gave the players Sunday 
and Monday free. Under Krips, this was fine for me because Krips 
needed me so much less often, so my absences on Saturday mornings 
were less frequent. 

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A Meeting with Leonard Bernstein and Playing with 
Artur Rodzinski 

Crawford: You performed under Bernstein how is he? 

Altman: Bernstein is a case by himself. He does many things which 

normally an orchestra would resent. He is too explosive; he jumps 
around and he changes his facial expressions. He acts up a 
little too much, but he gets away with it because his mastery of 
the music is absolute. He is in every respect as tremendous a 
conductor as Ozawa and I cannot deny that he had great ability 
and experience and genuine originality. 

So I have the greatest admiration for him and only two or 
three years ago I had a personal experience with him. I was 
invited to play an organ recital at Grace Cathedral. The 
invitation came from my colleague John Fenstermaker , who now 
plays the organ parts for the symphony. 

One day I was practicing for my program, and I was 
practicing a piece by Stockhausen for the organ called Zodiac. 
All of a sudden, I heard footsteps in the back, which I disliked 
immensely because they always disturb you in your practice. But 
they came closer and closer, and then finally who was it? 
Bernstein. I was flabbergasted. He asked, "What are you 
playing?" "Stockhausen." Then we talked, and he said he had a 
concert that evening with the Vienna Philharmonic, which he 
brought over for a U.S. tour. 

I said to Mr. Bernstein that I had played under him when he 
conducted our San Francisco orchestra in a Bartok work. He 
remembered that, and then he said to me, "Are you coming to my 
concert tonight?" We didn't plan to go frankly because it was 
frightfully expensive, I think, $120 or $130 a seat. So I said, 
"We haven't decided yet," which was really not a very polite, 
accurate reply. He said, "If you want to come, I will leave a 
ticket for you in the back with the custodian because you cannot 
buy any it's completely sold out." I thanked him profusely, and 
said, "Would it be possible my wife loves music." So he said 
quickly, "I will leave two seats for the two of you." And he 

Crawford: That's a very warm story. 

Altman: That is the way he is. He's a real humanitarian which we call a 
Mensch, and I think everybody knows and feels that way. 

Crawford: And then you played under Artur Rodzinski? 


Altman: Yes, in King David by Honegger. Rodzinski was a wonderful 

conductor but moody, so the rehearsal went badly. To break the 
unhappy spell, the Maestro told a funny story about how he had 
just conducted the Mexico City orchestra and got ill during 
rehearsal, so they gave him time to rest and swallow a pill. 

Rehearsal resumed, but again the Maestro 's heart trouble 
forced him to' stop and take another pill. Finally, after 
receiving a pill for the third time, the pill "took" and 
Rodzinski asked who the fine doctor was. "I am no doctor," the 
man answered. "I am the undertaker!" 

The "Hocus-Pocus" about Conductors 

Crawford: You said the audience got tired after a honeymoon with each of 
the conductors. Was that true of all of them? 

Altman: The later ones all quit on their own before it came to that. You 
know the international celebrities have a very easy time now 
because they are so much in demand and it's much easier for them 
to leave. I can understand that. 

Crawford: Conductors who take several orchestras, do they conduct as well? 

Altman: Better. It's an awful lot of hocus-pocus in that whole thing. 
When, for instance, our big moneymakers speak of "world class" 
orchestras, that is absolute baloney. 

Crawford: Why? 

Altman: Because it cannot be. Let's say we want to play against Seattle. 
Let's say the next time we want to be compared with Los Angeles. 
So we improve like hell, but the others are as smart as we are 
in improving. They can just as soon go up from their level like 
we do. Isn't that logical? Are we not like the proverbial 
driver who always wants to pass the drivers in front? 

Crawford: But you're saying it's not necessary for a conductor to be 
resident in a city and perform week after week? 

Altman: Absolutely not. The opera company, for instance, never has a 

resident conductor. Even Sir John Pritchard today doesn't act as 
one; he's away all the time. If they have a good conductor, they 
instantly play like an excellent orchestra. That is the main 
thing. The job of a symphony orchestra, the conditio sine qua 
non is to interpret the great music written for this ensemble, 
for a very large sophisticated ensemble. 


Crawford: So it is the choice of programming which is the most important? 

Altman: Yes. Those who have subscribed to the symphony for ten-twelve 

seasons should know this repertoire in detail. If that's not so, 
if they only have heard the same number of selected masterworks, 
the orchestra has failed to live up to what it is all about. The 
main thing is the repertoire. 


[Interview 4: May 9, 1988] ## 

The Place of Music in the Jewish Service 

Crawford: Let us begin by talking more about music in the temple. 

Altman: You have touched upon a vast subject, Caroline, so let us 

anticipate a long chapter right here, not begrudging the time it 
may take. 

First, the general background of Jewish music. As you know, 
there are three different religious organizations representing 
the majority of America's Jewry: Reform, Conservative and 
Orthodox. Temple Emanu-El of San Francisco belongs to the first 
group, the Reform group, comprising about seven hundred fifty 
congregations with a total membership of well over a million 

Almost all congregations have a cantor, sometimes with a 
volunteer choir. Bigger temples usually have additionally an 
organist, and the biggest, like ours, have a professional choir 
capable of performing anything that has been composed for the 
Jewish liturgy. This is the usual, so that most synagogues have 
fine music. 

As with everything else in life some temples are more equal 
than others. Our temple has the reputation, and I believe it is 
a justified one, of being a leader in the field of music through 
the vast range of repertoire, the quality of our vocal ensemble 
and most of all, the fact that Temple Emanu-El has consistently 
pioneered in the realm of commissioning new works from the genius 
of living Jewish composers. 


The Relationship between Cantor and Organist 

Crawford: What was the relationship between the cantor and you as organist? 
Who conducted the choir, picked the music, and hired and fired 
the singers? 

Altman: Caroline, you put the finger, or rather all your fingers, on the 
problems as they come up in every case. I believe that to answer 
your question one must go back to the 1930s when there was a 
renaissance of Jewish liturgical music taking place here in the 
United States with composers like Abraham Binder, who was also a 
first-rate administrator, Isadore Freed, Max Helfman, Lazar 
Saminsky and Lazar Weiner, to mention just a few. Many 
synagogues had no cantor; often one of the choir singers would be 
singing the more traditional chants and be called "cantorial 

Something similar happened in Germany at the same time. 
Under the pressure of the Nazi regime, many young musicians found 
their way back to Jewish values and that included a heightened 
concern for a renewal of the shopworn liturgy. 

Crawford: Would you mention some names? 

Altman: Gladly, since many of them found asylum in the United States and 
in Australia. There was Heinrich Schalit, Hugo Adler and his 
son, Samuel Adler, Erwin Jospe, Max Janowsky, Oskar Guttmann, 
Janot Roskin, Herman Berlinsky, Werner Bar, Hermann Schildberger , 
Herbert Fromm, Ludwig Altman. In many instances we had to learn 
or perfect our technique by playing the organ. 

Crawford: But who was playing the organs in the Reform temples before all 

Altman: A good question, easily answered. Because even in the Reform 
temples (it really should be called "liberal"), no Jew was 
permitted to play the organ; it was considered a mechanism like, 
say, an automobile or streetcar, so there were always Christian 
organists employed. This ended when the Nazis, possibly fearing 
that the Christian musicians might become contaminated, made them 
quit their synagogue jobs, thereby opening positions for Jewish 
musicians . 

Back to your question about the cantor-organist 
relationship. As I said before, it changed from situation to 
situation. Cantor Rinder had problems to overcome, as beloved 
and supported as he was by the members. There is no need to go 
into detail here. Since he was unable to sing, after all the 
main activity of a cantor, he was given the title of musical 


Altman: There was a tacit compromise that I would direct the choir while 
playing the organ part, but that Cantor Kinder would select the 
music as well as audition the vocalists. I could live with this 
arrangement very nicely, first out of gratitude to him who handed 
me the job outright and who introduced much new material to me. 

In reality my position was not an easy one since he also 
insisted on conducting the rehearsals so that 1 had to take 
charge and accept responsibility for services which I had never 

Luckily, the choir had total understanding of the setup and 
cooperated beautifully. Even at the Holy Day Services of 1938 
(when I had to do them for the first time) there was no rehearsal 
time allotted and you can imagine my feelings when the young, then 
unknown, Erich Leinsdorf attended services, sitting on the organ 
bench with me! 

There was something else and as I look back it all becomes 
vivid in my memory. I never have spoken about this point, namely 
that I could and did indeed have the strongest possible desire to 
have plenty of time and energy to devote my talent as much as 
possible to musical activities outside the synagogue and its 
music. My greatest wish and ambition was to stay in the much 
larger field of general music, and I had no inclination to have 
my job at Emanu-El turn into a full-time job which might preclude 
or limit my outside music-making. 

Crawford: You mentioned your interest in music apart from the organ. 

Altman: Yes, I always loved to play the piano, mainly because of the 
literature, so unbelievably superior to the organ repertoire. 

Beginning in 1946, Naoum Blinder asked me to become the 
accompanist for his students, coaching them at the same time. He 
had a wonderful class and many of his students became members of 
our symphony. Others like David Abel preferred chamber music. 

Mr. Blinder was an absolutely first-class teacher, and this 
gave me an idea of the violin concerto repertoire and brought me 
before the public, since many of the students gave recitals 
attended by the critics. 

If the cantor had worried about my wanting to run the music 
at the Temple, all my outside activities church jobs, the 
orchestra, the Bach Festival and the summer tours would have 
shown the contrary. So while all this worked so well for me at 
Emanu-El, the combination of a cantor and a musically ambitious 
young Jewish organist could have produced problems, particularly 
if the organist expected to be and became musical director. 


Crawford: Is this perhaps a reason for the shortage of Jewish organists? 

Altman: I think so. As I mentioned, in the thirties quite a few young 
musicians from Germany came over here at the ideal moment, 
because synagogue music underwent a change and new music was 
created, performed and accepted. Now music in the synagogue 
means something different again, a much simpler form of musical 
presentation, more folkloristic, more repetitious, always having 
the cantor run the show, which automatically "demotes" the 

Cantor Kinder and the Commissioning of Works 

Crawford: Was Cantor Kinder substantially responsible for the music 
programs at Emanu-El? 

Altman: Yes. To fill you in, let me give a short description of his 
life. He came as a two-year-old to the United States, to the 
East Coast, like so many Jews. In 1913 he was called from there 
to San Francisco as cantor of our Temple. He was instantly 
recognized for his artistry and his wonderful personality. He 
had a rare gift of making people find solace and relief from 
anguish just by talking to him. 

Like almost always in life there were problems to face. One 
of them, actually the only one in this context, was the fact that 
he had vocal problems which increased with time, so much so that 
he had to give up singing in the regular form, replacing it with 
some recitation helped along by mostly improvised organ music. 

Unfortunately, there was no real chanting possible, but 
there was a wonderful baritone, Stanley Noonan, a Catholic who 
learned the traditional melodies. Stan had a true feeling for 
this different kind of music and I wonder if Congregation Emanu-El 
had a full appreciation of the contributions he made through his 
approximately forty years. 

Crawford: I understand Cantor Rinder had a fine baritone voice as a young 

Altman: I never heard him sing out, as his vocal illness prevented it. 

The Cantor mentioned the name of his illness to me repeatedly; it 
was one of those mysterious, diff icult-to-remember foreign words. 

Musically speaking, the role of the recitant became popular 
again through the cantor's introducing a special part into the 
score, so that his participation in the performance of the 
service was assured. 


Altman: He instructed those composers to whom he gave commissions to 
write services or to provide a special line which he called 
recitant. And so he would have that at least for a music 
background, and he could even get by with those suggestions with 
people like Ernest Bloch and Darius Milhaud. 

Crawford: Was that a limitation? Did it diminish the music somehow? 

Altman: No. In those cases, he had the music also for a cantor, but he 
didn't call it the cantor, it was a baritone soloist. 

Crawford: You mentioned with the Milhaud commission that you thought it was 
somewhat makeshift and not as strong as it might have been. 

Altman: No, to my mind, the real weakness of the Milhaud in that respect 
is that the underpinning or the background music is very weak 
music. It doesn't really stand up to anything. 

But it's only a small part. Mostly, it is choral music, 
which is mostly again in Hebrew. The recitant doesn't recite all 
the time and doesn't in all things. Mostly towards the end and 
usually the final blessings involved him much more, but there is 
still a complete part for a baritone soloist, for which we used 
always one of the singers in the choir. These people usually 
were not Jewish. It was very difficult to find Jewish choir 
singers. [Stanley Noonan was in the choir.] 

The Temple Choir 

Crawford: You had a large choir, I understand, and then a hundred 
volunteers on top of it. 

Altman: Yes, well that was only for the star performances like when the 
Milhaud was given in its premiere, its very first performance, 
then we had a large choir. Those figures I don't know. I don't 
know what the actual counts were. We always had our choir and 
then usually in quite a few of those, we got the chorus from Cal. 

Crawford: Did you work with the choir, or did Cantor Rinder? 

Altman: It depended. Now when we had those Jewish services, no. What 

happened was I had to prepare our professional choir we had only 
a professional choir, even now every service is a professional 
choir. There are no Jewish singers in it. 

Crawford: It's unusual. 

Altman: And this is a pretty well-paid job. 


Crawford: Why is that so? 

Altman: Well, the Jewish singers I don't know they also couldn't get a 
successor to my own job who was Jewish. 

Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Temples 

Crawford: I wanted to ask you about the difference in the music in the 
different temples: Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative. 

Altman: Well, the Orthodox has only a cantor and maybe a male choir. It 
depends again on who the cantor is and where he comes from. You 
see so many Jewish people are here in the first generation. And 
so the people who came from the Orthodox and the Conservative, 
particularly brought their own Eastern melodies with them. And 
then it all depends where they came from, et cetera. 

The Conservative is the same way, but part of them will have 
organ music, too. But they also will mostly have only male 
singers, not four-part singing, and use those singers in lieu, as 
it was, of an organ. In other words, instead of the organist 
playing a chorus, they would sing a chorus. 

The big Reform temples, of course, that is the one to which 
Emanu-El belongs, have mixed choir, organ, and a cantor. Now 
when I came from Berlin, there were many, many Reform temples 
that had no cantor. That was even more Reform than what you might 
think of, and only [in] late years have the cantors made a 
tremendous comeback and are much more important. 

Now, all temples have cantors. That is very recent. Many, 
many temples, even the biggest of them all, the Temple Emanu-El 
in New York, have now something like a cantor. They don't want 
to be so reformed that they have a full-time cantor, but they do 
have now a man who takes, so to speak, the position of a cantor, 
without being called that. 

But since there are not enough cantors available, they have 
now gone a step further and have installed girls who go to that 
school where they train them. 

Crawford: They have a cantor school? 

Altman: In New York, and probably elsewhere too. But the big one is in 
New York, and that is under the heading of Reform Judaism as a 
whole. You know, there are about seven hundred synagogues under 
that roof with a membership of over a million. They have a 






school where they train the girls now alongside the boys. There 
are so many, and they are so outstanding that they rule the whole 
field. If that continues like that [laughter] 

Do you approve? 

Wholeheartedly! Well, I like girls anyway. 

So it's in the more modern church where you find more music? 

Choosing Soloists 

Altman: Yes, because they have the facilities. Now we always had 

marvelous singers, and Cantor Rinder had a good knack for picking 
good singers and if I might blow my own horn, I do too. I have 
brought many, many singers very great careers. To mention a few 
names, the latest one that becomes a star right now is Luana De 
Vol. I picked her for the Temple. 

Crawford: She has a career in Germany. 

Altman: I helped her too; I gave her lots of instruction. For instance, I 
told her what the keys are, what the tonalities are called. She 
can no longer say, "A flat." She remembers that A flat major is 
As-dur . 

Crawford: Oh, you taught her so that she could adapt? 

Altman: Sure, that way she could get coaching lessons. The coaches are 

Crawford: Did she sing in the Temple for you? 
Altman: Yes. I picked her. She was my soprano. 

Once I was called by Farberman you know the conductor in 
Oakland? I should have the Mahler [prepared], the last movement 
of Herr Mahler, Eighth Symphony, in three days. The organist got 
sick or got cold feet or whatever. So all right. I hated it 
because I had to go at night. They all rehearse at night. 

Crawford: In the Paramount? 
Altman: No. It was elsewhere. 
Crawford: It was before the Paramount? 


Altman: Yes. I had a terrible Baldwin organ to boot; it was awful. 
Well, I really was all right. There was another person who 
stepped in, in the same performance and it was Luana. The Mahler 
has quite a few soprano parts. So I heard the girl for the first 
time. And the first opening I had, I engaged her. 



Ernest Bloch and Frederick Jacobi 

Crawford: Let's talk a little bit more in depth about these commissions. 
Was that kind of a musical renaissance within the Temple Emanu- 

Altman: Yes. 

Crawford: I wanted to know about Ernest Bloch first of all, his 1928 

Altman: Well, he was one of the great. I personally don't go for the 
"great." We have no measurement, but I would say he is one of 
the great composers of his day. In the first place, he did not 
only compose the sacred service for the Jews. 

Crawford: No. What place did his service have within his music? 

Altman: A high place. I think it is one of the surviving pieces he 

Crawford: Is it performed still? 
Altman: By Jewish people, yes. 
Crawford: So that was a contribution to the literature? 

Altman: Definitely. A mainstay. It was much better than that because 

since there is nothing else of equal stature, it's definitely of 
central importance to us. There is one hitch in the service, and 
that is that he composed it like it was an oratorio. In other 
words, it goes continuously on. It can replace the service as it 
goes because it contains all the prayers. 

Crawford: So you have to interrupt it. 




Al tman : 




Yes. And that is not easily done because you never have real 
authentic endings of anything. In many cases, we should go on 
where we have to stop because something else occurs. 

Well, Frankenstein, when he reviewed it, said it was the first 
organic symphonic setting of the Jewish liturgy. Is that what 
you're referring to, the fact that it was more of a piece? 

Yes. Now the other one, the Milhaud, is a little bit better. 
There you have a similar situation that it goes on when it 
should be finished, and that limits a little bit its liturgical 
use, but we make use of it even though it's not perfect. 

One of the people who wrote for the service in 1931 was Frederick 
Jacobi. Although he wasn't commissioned, was he a member of the 

No. He was a composer in New York, 
he was not living here. 

He's a San Franciscan, but 

He said he thought Bloch and Milhaud had their eyes on the 
concert stage as well as the altars. Would that explain what you 
are saying, that they wanted a piece that could be done by an 

Altman: Well, the fact that it is orchestrated has nothing to do with the 
structure. Jacobi, I met also. He gave some operatic thing at 
Stanford. He died when he was sixty-two years old, I remember, 
and his piece was, to my ears, just charming. 

I congratulated him and said, "It charmed me so much and it 
put me in a good mood; it was humorous," and he was enchanted. 
He said, "That is the most wonderful thing you say, because I'm 
always taken as a modern composer and [considered] hard to listen 
to!" So my reaction pleased him. 

Crawford: What did he write for the Temple? 

Altman: He wrote a service. We have a whole service by him, and we have 
given pieces from it. His vocal writing is very simple music by 
today's standards; you just read it off. It is alive. To my 
ears, it was always in a very peculiar, clumsy way, original. He 
had those endless long, low notes in all voices, and then he had 
an obsession that on almost every downbeat, there is nothing 
going on except the pedal. You know it stops the flow and makes 
many pauses where there should be music. There was not enough 
counterpoint, not only in the strict Bach style, but some sort of 
something going on. But it has its good points also. I had 
chosen quite a few of those pieces to perform. 


Crawford: Did you know Mr. Bloch when he lived and worked at the San 
Francisco Conservatory? 

Altman: No, I never met Bloch. 

Darius Milhaud's Sacred Service 

Crawford: I know you knew Mr, 
a little bit? 

and Mrs. Milhaud. Could you talk about them 

Altman: Yes. Milhaud was, in my opinion, a composer who was just a 
composer. He was a very genial man a real Frenchman. His 
music, to my ears, has always reflected that. 

Altman: It was difficult to know his opus because of the unbelievably 
large number of works he composed. I was several times 
privileged and always enjoyed it when I heard large works of his 
performed. Now in the 1930s, I remember hearing his Christopher 
Columbus in the state opera at Berlin, conducted by the eminent 
Erich Kleiber. 

Cantor Rinder was most successful in commissioning Darius 
Milhaud to compose a Sacred Service for our congregation. He was 
at the zenith of his fame and musical inspiration, invited right 
and left to conduct, and swamped with offers to write music. 
This had the disadvantage that Milhaud could and would write too 
quickly, relying on his enormous technique and facility to see 
him through. 

Cantor Rinder knew this and was anxious to impress on 
Milhaud the need for at least one section to be of large 
proportion, counterpoint, but how to proceed? He was afraid that 
the great man would resent such interference. 

After deliberation Rinder decided to point out to him the 
special importance of a setting of the Torah Service, which 
should stand out musically to conform with the liturgical 
highlights. Milhaud saw the light and obliged him. 

Crawford: Did Milhaud also talk about his composing David for Jerusalem? 

Altman: Yes, there was a party at the Rinder home, which was just one 

block from Emanu-El. I certainly did not miss the opportunity to 
talk to Milhaud, a friendly man without any pretense. I asked 
him how the conductor did. "He took too many liberties," Milhaud 
said, "I want to hear performers, not interpreters!" 




Crawford : 

Al tman : 

He was one among many composer-conductors who were very matter- 
of-fact in conducting their own works. Milhaud did not object to 
some of the young girls in Ed Lawton's chorus from Cal, Berkeley, 
who sat in the front row knitting during rehearsals. 

But there were unexpected problems. America was changing 
the pronunciation of Hebrew from the Ashkenazi to Sephardic. We 
were used to the Ashkenazi used in Eastern Europe but since the 
Sephardic was the language spoken in Israel the temples of Reform 
switched to Sephardic rapidly. The trouble was that all our 
music was written in Ashkenazi, so you can understand that we had 
a linguistic mishmash for a while. 

But the performance went very well and for many years was a 
main staple of our liturgy since Cantor Joseph L. Portnoy liked 
the music, and liked to sing it. 

Milhaud also contributed a lovely L'cha Dodi and a rather 
demanding setting of Shim'u Banim (Hear, y_e_ children) , the latter 
for inclusion in Cantor Kinder "s book entitled Music and Prayer. 
This is important Milhaud, but unfortunately almost unsingable 
because of the tessitura, which is too high for a baritone, too 
low for a tenor. 

I read that he always sang in French at the Seder. 

Yes. He was very Jewish-oriented and informed, and he was very 
friendly with Cantor Kinder, and the two were together often. 
Cantor Kinder lived just a block from the Temple on Jackson 
Street, and often at the end of a service, he would have everybody 
up to his place. I remember that with great affection. 
Particularly towards the end when Milhaud was very ill, he always 
used to say, "I'm not in good health." Nobody even knew he was 

What about Mrs. Milhaud? 

I understand she's quite a character 

Yes. She is a very charming lady, very vivacious and a marvelous 
mate to him. 

You said musical? 

Oh, she is an artist of the first order. She is a recitante. In 
other words, she reads poetry. If you want to know more about 
that, I would very much like you to talk with Jane Galante, who 
was with them often. On the last Saturday before leaving the 
United States for Paris we gave fifteen numbers of his Sacred 
Service at the Temple. 


Altman: At the first performance of the Milhaud service we had baritone 
Stanley Noonan sing the cantorial parts and Cantor Rinder recite 
with the instrumental music as a background. I don't remember if 
I played it on the organ or if we had some strings play it, but 
we had a big orchestra. 

Milhaud conducted, and he was blown up like a balloon and 
all this flesh. So he sat there, and to the person who played 
too late, he said finally, "I look at you. I smile at you. I do 
this to you, but you still come in an eighth too late." He was 
very genial, not at all concerned. 

Crawford: But he was a correct conductor. He wanted things to be right? 

Altman: Correct. That was all not emotional. I found that also with 

some of the others who were like that. They never know their own 
music from memory. 

Ben-Haim and the Psalms 

Altman: Another smaller commission went to the Israeli composer Ben-Haim 
(originally from Germany). This was the result of my feeling the 
need for a festival K'dushah ' . In this I had the support of 
Cantor Portnoy. It turned out splendidly and became a standard 
staple of the liturgy. 

Cantor Rinder "s last contribution in the field of 
commissions brought the setting of three Psalms by Ben-Haim. I, 
for one, was enthused over the inspiration, the richness of 
melody, and harmony, the many moods, the changing rhythmic 
patterns and the independent orchestral parts, et cetera. 

Although the work had a successful premiere at Emanu-El, it 
never seemed to make the grade and is shamefully neglected. 

The most brilliant is the last Psalm, which we gave usually 
as the "big anthem" for Erev Rosh Hashanah [Rosh Hashanah eve]. 
The solos sung by Marian Marsh with their high C are well 

There is one problem which might be the reason for ignoring 
the work, namely the difficult organ part. Whether one contem 
plates a performance with orchestra or organ, one is in for a 
worthwhile, beautiful experience. 


Cantor Portnoy 

Altman: When Cantor Kinder retired, he was succeeded by Cantor Joseph L. 
Portnoy and for almost thirty years we worked together in perfect 
harmony. Let me stress right at the beginning that Joe was a 
much younger man. When Joe was interviewed by the selection 
committee and the question came up about his being a tenor when 
almost all cantorial parts were composed for a cantor who was a 
baritone, Cantor Portnoy reassured the committee, pointing out 
the years of successful service he had done elsewhere. 

The situation was so challenging that I felt impelled to try 
my hand at composing a short service for him, which was then 
published by Transcontinental Music. These initial services were 
so crucial for the singers, the new cantor and me, that Joe was 
obviously more than satisfied and paid me one of the nicest 
compliments in saying, "You are a godsend." 

As time went by his voice seemed to get lower and lower, so 
that within a few years he landed in the baritone range. It was 
lucky that I could transpose as this became necessary. 

Soon after Joe was familiar with our setup we discussed my 
range of responsibility at the Temple. I explained that the 
Temple was always my first and most important job, but by no 
means the only one, and that I depended greatly on outside 
activity. Joe understood that my prestige and my ability to 
compete locally would suffer if he was director of music and I 
was simply organist. So it was agreed that Joe was called cantor 
and director of our religious school and I was organist-choir 
director, which described the situation fairly correctly. After 
this was settled, we hardly ever, if ever, had to refer to this 

Joe Portnoy is a quiet, gently-speaking person, and you 
have to know him before you realize that he is absolutely 
brilliant and strong in sticking to principles. Musically, he 
brought many changes, but always gradually. The change was most 
noticeable in our collection of anthems to be sung after the 
sermon. These had been largely compositions in English and were 
taken from the works of the great composers. 

Crawford: Can you name a few? 

Altman: Haydn, Mozart, Franck, Brahms. Masterpieces. That was the style 
prevalent in Cantor Kinder 's time and just right for worship 
then. Cantor Portnoy introduced a repertory of responses in 
Hebrew, stressing music with some Jewish lilt. Once I got the 


Altman: drift, he left the choice largely to my judgment. Joe continued 
the practice of commissioning new works and hit the jackpot at 
least twice. 

The first was a choral-orchestral work based on a text from 
Chronicles which was composed by Seymour Shifrin, a professor of 
music at the University of California, Berkeley. This modern 
work proved to be too difficult to be given by our musical forces 
at Emanu-El, but was very well received when given at UC and was 
performed by no less a celebrity than Seiji Ozawa, who performed 
the music also in Boston. 

While the music is not easily grasped by the casual listener 
it has a very beautiful last movement. The composer died very 
young, a loss for us all. 

The second commission of Joe Portnoy went to Sergiu Natra, 
an Israeli composer whom Joe met on one of his various trips to 
Israel. The two men hit it off and a new service was the result. 
I think that the music is beautiful and new enough to be 

Ludwig Altman* s Sacred Service and Commissions 

Crawford: Did you commission works, too? 
Altman: Yes, on a more modest scale. 

The first time I commissioned a composer was in 1952. 
That year the American Guild of Organists held its national 
convention in San Francisco and we at Emanu-El had to live up to 
great expectations. The trouble was we had a paucity of 
worthwhile Jewish organ pieces, so I contacted Ellis Kohs, a very 
well-known composer from Los Angeles, to write settings for organ 
of three Jewish melodies. These proved so successful that they 
were published in 1952 under the title Chorale Variations on 
Hebrew Hymns. 

The second time I asked Herbert Fromm to compose a setting 
of a melody related to the Yom Kippur liturgy, which he not only 
accepted but enlarged into a cyclical composition in which the 
original piece is now called "Fantasia." In this form it has 
been published by Transcontinental Music Publications. Fromm is 
a leading Jewish composer, fulfilled by his writing for the 
American Reform services. 


Altman: My third commission went to Karl Kohn, professor of composition 
at Pomona College in California. I became drawn to his music 
when I heard some choral works of his given at a festival of 
modern music at which Copland and Stockhausen participated. I 
asked Kohn for organ preludes for the three pilgrimage festivals, 
for which we had little written so far. He obliged and hopefully 
his work will eventually be published by the prestigious Carl 
Fischer, who has Kohn under contract. 

My last commission, the fourth one, gave me great 
satisfaction. I had asked David Sheinfeld, a local composer, for 
an organ piece incorporating some part of the Kol Nidre chant. 
David was for many years a member of the violin section (first 
violin) of the San Francisco Symphony and we had many talks 
together at rehearsals, et cetera. 

His music was so strong, so new in an interesting way, that 
it was performed by almost all of our symphony conductors, 
beginning with Pierre Monteux, who encouraged David. Other great 
conductors, like William Steinberg and Seiji Ozawa, performed his 
music which, by the way, was not easy. Smaller ensembles 
commissioned him, too, and made him well-known nationally. His 
string quartets were taken on tour by top-notch musicians. 

When I approached him about writing an organ piece for the 
synagogue he admitted that he did not have the faintest idea 
about the workings of the instrument, especially not of so huge a 
one as the one at our Temple. 

We had two choices. I could have shown him the regular or 
"normal" workings of the organ or we could take the riskier road 
and just show him how to turn the motor on and off and let him 
find everything out by himself! 

David Sheinfeld, not only a wonderful musician who was full 
of musical inspiration and ever surprising his listeners, came 
through with flying colors! His work, entitled Elegaiac 
Sonorities, uses the organ in ways I had never heard or thought 
of before. His composition cast a spell when I presented it for 
the first time at one of my year-end recitals, co-sponsored by 
the local branch of the Goethe Institute. This work was also 
accepted for publication, although it is not easy to get 
acquainted with the unorthodox notation. I was fortunate to have 
had the composer explain and decipher it for me. 

Crawford: What about Cantor Kinder 's music? 
Altman: He composed a few hymns. 
Crawford: He arranged a Kol Nidre? 


Altman: The Kol Nidre exists. That is a basic Jewish melody; we don't 
know who composed the melody. But you have to make it into a 
presentable thing for a service , and many Jewish people have done 
that. Cantor Hinder "s version he published. I can show it to 
you, but every cantor has a different one. 

Crawford: Nothing so extraordinary? 

Altman: I hate to say that because it might give the impression that I am 
disloyal, but it isn't that. 

Marc Lavry 

Crawford: Let's move on to Marc Lavry, who I understood wrote something 
marvelous in the way of a service. 

Altman: Marc Lavry came from Israel. When he saw me and got hold of me, 
he was beaming and [he] said I had come to his rescue and I was 
wonderful. So I helped him as much as I could preparing the choir 
and so and so. And then we had an orchestra, and the whole thing 
was given. I thought it was a wonderful piece. But very serious 
musicians, whose opinions I had to honor, said not so, it is 
cheap, more like movie music. 

I don't know what happened. It was given first in New York 
in the Temple Emanu-El, and he conducted it. It was given here 
and probably some other places, but it didn't make the grade. 

Crawford: Somebody described it as having Arabian elements; he was the head 
of the Israeli Symphony of the Air? 

Altman: Yes, he was with the radio over there. But the work proved to be 
a flop ultimately. For one thing, it is not published, at least 
not as he had written it, and only a few small numbers were 
published in an Israeli publishing house. It is not very 
impressive. It has a very charming L'cha Dodi which I have given 
many times when I was in charge. Now I'm emeritus, as you know. 

Crawford: When these works were premiered, did the public at large get to 
hear them? 

Altman: Yes. The public was invited. The publicity was always 

excellent, but Cantor Kinder shied away from straight criticism. 
He was just as happy if the critics wouldn't come. He always 
claimed that they didn't know much anyway, but the general 
publicity was strong, and we always had good turnouts. 


Funding for Composers 

Crawford: Did the Temple pay the commissions? 

Altman: Yes. 

Crawford: So it raised the commissions among the congregants? 

Altman: There was no problem. 

Crawford: There was never a problem getting money? 

Altman: Cantor Rinder was marvelous at that. Once he arranged something, 
he didn't worry about underwriting it. They didn't even argue 
with him. 

Crawford: I read that after the Ben-Haim performance there was money left 

over, and so they started a Rinder Music Fund for commissionings . 

Altman: If the Temple wants to commission something in which there is a 
fund or no fund, they do it. 

Crawford: They have enough patrons? 

Altman: I don't know. I would think so. These amounts are so small. 

Crawford: Let's see. The Marc Lavry commission was $10,000, and that was 
twenty years ago. 

Altman: That would be today a really huge amount. 

Programming at the Temple 

Crawford: Did Cantor Rinder establish annual recitals before you came? 

Altman: It was not that regular, no. It was usually connected with an 
anniversary of the Temple. You know, they were very eager to 
have the 110th Anniversary, the 115th. 

Crawford: They did pieces like the Honegger King David and Handel 

Altman: Yes. And all of the Elijah. It was a staple and the temple 
really wanted it for those anniversaries. 

Crawford: Did you help program those? 


Altman: That was mostly Cantor Rinder. Usually it was an outside group 
which came. The most frequent was the Cal chorus. We had some 
funny experiences. When they performed at the Stern Grove, 
Cantor Rinder would say to our own choir, "Be sure to put on that 
your copies belong to us at Temple Emanu-El." We laughed because 
our copies read, "Property of U.C. Chorus"! 

A New Era at Temple Emanu-El: Choosing a Successor 






You left the Temple as organist in 1986. How did you choose a 

The congregation said, "You pick the person. Give us two names, 
and we leave it entirely up to you." So that put me on the spot. 
I tried to get a Jewish person, because I feel the position is so 
important and so outstanding. 

The only person I could even find who would come was a girl 
from the East, but there were some things which I didn't like 
because she had no job. She had had a job originally, but she 
lost it evidently, and then she had a church position as musical 
director, but after having her for a number of years, they didn't 
give her tenure. 

Did you hear her play? 

No. Because the playing alone is not what does the trick. The 
organist has to also be able to conduct a choir and has to please 
so many people. 

Did you conduct a national search? 


No. We didn't go that far because I knew how it would end. 
would end up with a first-class Christian! And for that we 
didn't need a national search. Also it's only a part-time job. 
You're not supposed to sit from morning to night. I never did 
that, but I had no idea five years before when I had the heart 
attack how much I had worked. 

I do know how much you worked. 

Unbelievable! I worked every day and usually through the 
evenings and the night for all my life. 

Crawford: You were a hard worker, but you had a passion, too. 



BouJnurJ and Lii/ Sow** Son FnMcocn 

- -' * ' -' 

. T * 

The community is cordially invited to attend a 
Jr~ : 4;_ Special Sabbath Service ...".; 

.\/"''t in honor of 

Ludwig and Emmy Aftman 
;=/ - - ; ' upon his retirement; . 

asTOrganist-Choir Director of Congregation Emahu-EI 

Saturday, the twenty-first of June 
Nineteen hundred and Eighty-Six 
Ten-thirty o'clock in the morning 

in the Temple 
A reception will follow 


Emanu-EI organist to retire after 50 
years' service 

Of the Bulletin Staff 

Ludwig Altman still might be the 
organist at the Neue Synagogue in 
Berlin, one of seven liberal congre 
gations in that German city, if it 
hadn't been for Hitler. 

In 1936, the head of the Berlin ke- 
hilla, the Jewish community, told , 
the young organist he had a life- 1 
time position with the great syna 
gogue. "That was four years after 
Hitler's rise, and they still thought 
it was reasonable that the Nazis 
wouldn't last that long," Altman 

Altman, who will be retiring at 
the end of this month in his 50th 
year with San Francisco's Temple 
Emanu-EI, said leaving Germany 
did take a toll on his potential musi 
cal career. But his flight in 1936 
opened a new career a lifetime 
one, at that in America. 

The organist, trained at the Uni 
versities of Breslau and Berlin and 
at the State Academy for Church 
and School Music in Berlin, said he 
looks back fondly at his career in 
America as he prepares for his up 
coming retirement. 

Altman will be the honoree at 
services at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at 
Emanu-EI, Arguello Boulevard and 
Lake Street, S.F., where all liturgi 
cal music will be of his composi 
tion. A number of his colleagues 
will speak, including violinist 
David Schneider, Grace Cathe 
dral's organist John Fenstermacher, 
S.F. Civic Chorale director Winifred 
Baker, columnist Robert Comman- 
day, and Jimmy Schwabacher, plus 
Emanu-El's rabbis and cantor. 

When Altman left Germany for 
America in 1936, he found he could 
have his choice of jobs. He audi 
tioned for jobs with synagogues in 
New York and Chicago (and was 
offered both), but opted for San 
Francisco because a number of his 
relatives lived here. The weather 
was awful in the Eastern cities in 
January and February, "and in San 
Trancisco the sun shined," he re 

In other ways, however, San 
Francisco didn't hold the promise 
of the East, Altman said meaning 
that he didn't get a job as a syna 
gogue organist immediately. In 
stead, he became a piano teacher at 
the San Bruno Settlement House, a 
community center for Jewish immi 
grants in the Portola District, and 

was a substitute for Emanu-El's or 
ganist, Wallace Sabin. Often, he 
would take over in mid-piece for 
Sabin, who was in ill health. "He 
died in 1937, and I just continued 
what I'd done." 

In the past 50 years, Altman said, 
he has seen Jewish liturgical music 
go through a cycle. First were the 
American composers, then com 
posers from Germany and Central 
Europe "made their contribution," 
he explained. Now, he said, liturgi 
cal composition has moved back to 
America. The music itself "is more 
dancelike and with instruments 
such as guitar," which has less 
ened the importance of organ mu 
sic, Alman observed. 

However, he added, Jewish litur 
gical music "will always swing var 
ious ways with the times. Change 
is constant, even in the field of Jew 
ish music." 

Jewish music in general, he 
noted, "is very individualistic, be 
cause every synagogue has a differ 
ent tradition. [Temple Emanu-EI] is 
no exception." But, he continued, 
"we are credited with an exception 
ally fine and ambitious musical pro 

In his years with Emanu-EI, Al 
tman 's favorite piece has been Da 
rius Milhaud's Sacred Service, com 
missioned by the synagogue in 
1949. The music of this piece, Al 
tman said, contradicted what mem 
bers of the clergy and congregation 
liked, because it "was on the dry 
side." But "Milhaud was a great 
Jewish composer, and that piece 
will carry the idea that there was 
Jewish musk," he said. 
: Altman also has had a varied ca 
reer in the secular musk field. He 
presents recitals at the Legion of 
Honor in San Francisco every other 
%veekend, alternating with Fenster- 
imacher. He was the official organist 
for the San Francisco Symphony 
for 33 years, "appointed by Pierre 
MonteauK, and I've played under 
'U its great conductors." He has 
presented many concerts in this 
area, and, for the past 25 summers, 
has concertized in England, Ger 
many and Switzerland. The Uni 
versity of San Francisco presented 
him with an honorary doctorate for 
his musk. 

Altman still is working on a num 
ber of other projects. An album of 
his organ compositions. The God of 
Abraham Praise, has just been re 
leased .by the Sacred Music P/ess of 


JUNE 20. 1986 
Ohio. And mis summer, he will be 
continuing a pet project notating 
an unknown piece by Mozart that 
he described as "a story in itself." 

The piece is contained in an 
Swiss organ dock built in 1770. "It 
was music by Mozart but never no- 
<ated because it was done right on 
the organ pins," Altman explained, 
describing the organ dock as about 
fix feet tall "with 32 little pipes." 

An organ dock "operated a set of 
organ pipes that played all kinds of 
tnusic," with a merry-go-round 
type of sound, Altman explained. 
Other composers, including 
Haydn, Beethoven, Handel and 
some sons of Bach, were known to 

have composed pieces for the off 
beat instruments. 
Altman and his wife, Emmy, plan 

to spend the month of July in a 

small town in Switzerland where 

the clock is located, continuing 

work that he began about five years 


He will plans to continue practic 
ing on Emanu-El's sanctuary organ 
a few times a week, depending on 
the schedule of his successor, Mi 
chael Secour. 

Altman also will continue teach 
ing. He said he's trained numerous 
students, many of them in good po 
sitions today, though none with 

Actually, this is one of Altman 's 
laments in looking back at his ca 
reer. "Unfortunately, Jewish peo 
ple do not take to becoming organ 
ists, and that's disappointing. 
There was one generation like 
mine," he said, listing a number of 
Jewish organist-composers in the 
United States, "and we all know 
each other. But the whole bunch 
all Jewish and organists are get 
ting toe old . : ^-. _ 4 
"Even my successor at Emanu-EI 
is Episcopalian, but I came after an ' 
Episcopalian, too." 



Crawford: What would you like to say about your recitals at the Temple? 
I'm very interested in what you programmed. 

Altman: They came about in a very funny way. In about 1950, the German 

consul general, who was extremely musical, arranged for a concert 
and it fell through for some reason I don't remember what. So I 
got a call from him saying, "We would like you to give an organ 
recital for the German consulate sponsored by us. Would you be 
willing to do that?" 

There was a certain problem about that because while we 
always like to play, I, a former German Jew, had to consider that 
this was the official organization of the German government. So 
I said that I had no personal feelings about that, expecting to 
be asked for a recital date the following year. I said, "When do 
you want it?" "Next month, in December," he said. I said, "We 
cannot really mount it so soon. Can't it wait?" He said, "No. 
To tell you the truth if we don't spend the [concert] money this 
year it goes back to the fund in Bonn." 

So they had to get rid of the money c 
me! And it was a colossal success. 

That's how they engaged 

After I had that first concert for the German consulate, it 
was then taken over by the Goethe Institute which just came to 
San Francisco then. It was going "great guns" by the way still 
in operation. They were the ones who then always hired me. It 
was a foregone conclusion that after I played my one recital, 
then the next year we'd do it again. 

Thirteen times I played for them. I played the last one in 
'82 or "83. I played for thirteen years in a row, and after the 
first one for the German consulate, my concerts were sponsored 
by the Goethe Institute. 

Crawford: Those were always at the Temple? 


Altman: Always at the Temple and always with novelties. I'm making a list 
by the way of the things which I programmed. It's fantastic. 
Apologies for bragging. 

Crawford: I know of one program that offered local premieres of works by 
Bach and Schoenberg. And then, of course, the first Art of_ the 
Fugue in 1949. 

Altman: Yes. That was the most important one. 
Crawford: Before the late sixties, did you give recitals? 

Altman: Yes and no. I didn't give any straight organ concerts except my 
initial debut one because there was a foolishness with the 
acoustical plaster. 

Acoustics and Remodeling 

Crawford: We should talk a little more about that now. How was that begun 
and why? I understand it had to do with Rabbi Reichert. 

Altman: The Temple was overacoustical. In other words, the reverberation 
was so strong that everything was indistinct. That bothered 
Rabbi Reichert because the people couldn't follow his sermons, 
which were very often outstandingly fine. 

Crawford: What was the surface of the inside? 

Altman: Stone. And so it was decided to get some plaster there, which was 

done. It took about a half a year. The whole scaffolding went 

straight into the huge dome. And then to make it worse, they 

also plastered into the organ loft, which was not provided for in 
the specifications at all. 

Crawford: Just a mistake? 

Altman: No. The contractors wanted to do us a good deed. So when that 

was done and the scaffolding went down it was heartbreaking. The 
organ sounded like a chamber organ. 

Crawford: No resonance? 

Altman: It was dead. You could hear the counterpoint very well, but that 
was about it. 

Crawford: You could hear the voice better? 


Lonyrtyatton (Lmanu - CY 

and the 

f L-oni'tn/ion of tkt -Stmerican (.juifa of (Jr 

The First Complete Performance of 

J. S. Bach's 


in the Orchestration of Wolfgang Cracker and Ludwig Alcman 


(Donation /rom the Recording and Tranjcription Fund of 
the American Federation of Miuicianj) 


TEMPLE EMANU-EL, Arguello Blvd. and Lake Street, San Francisco 


Altman: Well, I don't know even about that because as soon as that was 
done, they started with amplification. 

Crawford: It must have been sad for you. 

Altman: That is not the word. It was dreadful. 

Crawford: What year was that? 

Altman: Oh, I would say around 1940. 

Crawford: Just after you came? 

Altman: Well, yes, maybe even sooner, maybe '39- "38. I heard it in the 
very beginning, and I know that people complained they couldn't 
follow a fugue too well, so I would say it was about that time. 

Crawford: But the organ had been a very exceptional organ? 

Altman: It was a beautiful instrument. 

Crawford: What did it do to the organ sound, the plaster? 

Altman: Deadened it. It sounded, I wouldn't even say, soft. It sounded 
dead had no after-sound. 

Crawford: Have you modified that? 

Altman: Well, there was a problem for me because Cantor Kinder had 

designed that organ, and he thought it was the most wonderful 
thing under the sun. 

Crawford: How did he design it? You mean he asked for the combinations and 
so on? 

Altman: He had Wallace Sabin to guide him, and then the builder, Ernest 
Skinner came. But Skinner was a very determined man. I'm sure 
nobody had anything to say. So it was designed that way. 

So I had to be very diplomatic in getting money for making 
changes in the organ to compensate some for this colossal loss of 
sonority, and I explained it on those terms. Altogether I made 
twenty-seven changes in the construction of the organ, and it's 
just as well that I mention it now because later on I might be 

An organ is built for a specific room. Right? And if that 
room changes, the organ must be changed to accommodate for the 
change because then it's a new room. And so I said, "This is now a 
new sanctuary. And this organ the way it is now is wrong for 
the sanctuary. And there must be changes and additions." When I 


Altman: did that, it didn't mean that I changed every stop just to make 
it louder. As a matter of fact, we got quite a few new stops 
after this debacle. 

I meant to have it sound full and majestic in the new 
sanctuary. I think it does. It's not the loudest organ in town, 
it's not the biggest, of course, but I think it's the most 
majestic and beautiful one. 

Crawford: The most majestic. That's interesting. What did you do specifi 
cally? You changed various stops, I assume. 

Altman: Well, there were several things I did. For instance, let's say a 
division was deficient in something. I would exchange stops so 
that a better-suited stop would go on the wind chest of that one. 

Organ pipes stand on various wind chests. Some wind chests 
have many outlets, and it's more crucial that better-suited stops 
go on wind chests which have more or several outlets. 

Then we got in quite a few new ones, too, and we raised the 
number of ranks or stops to seventy-five. We have seventy-five 
ranks now on the organ. 

It is not an awful lot for the size of the auditorium, which 
is very large, but with those you can make an awful lot of fine 
noise. You can make the windows shake! And very fine solo 
stops and beautiful ensembles. 

Crawford: So the organ was eventually just the way you wanted it to be? 

Altman: Yes, and at the same time, it was much more in accordance with 
the ideas and ideals of present time. It had certain stops, 
outlets, which it didn't need, and those outlets I then used to 
put new pipes on. The big expense in an organ is funny to say 
not the pipes but the immense amount of the mechanism going into 
it. Let's say the pipes we could get for a thousand dollars, but 
the mechanism to put them in, it might cost you five thousand. 

Changing Trends in Organ Building 

Crawford: You said the sound ideal changes. Talk a little bit about that. 

Altman: We go back now to our ideas about organ construction and the 

selection of stops. If you had a fine organ builder in 1920 
let's say somebody like Ernest M. Skinner then the idea was to 
make the organ into a substitute or the equal of a symphony 
orchestra one of the reasons being that if you lived in a 


Altman: smaller town at that time there was no orchestra. So the 

organist in a way provided symphonic music as an orchestra would 
do today. 

So the organs were built along those lines then to build 
solo stops which would have sounded as much as possible like 
orchestral solo stops, particularly woodwinds. Then the flutes 
made a large part of the organ construction and after flutes, 
woodwinds. They did that very well in that line, but now they 
know the organ must be an organ and not imitate an orchestra. 
And so we build this way now. 

A lot of it is ignorance and half-knowledge, particularly 
the ideal of the Bach period is misunderstood in my opinion. 
The really old Bach organs are not at all like the ones built 
today so often in America with the idea that that is now the 
way Bach should sound. It is not so. 

Crawford: What is the basic difference? 

Altraan: For one thing, our mixtures are much too shrill. We build them 
too narrow; we build them too high-pitched. There is nothing 
underpinning them. We use them wrong. We use them to make the 
organ play more brilliantly. 

Crawford: And you think Bach didn't go for a brilliant sound? 

Altman: Yes, he did, but he didn't produce it like that. Now with Bach, 
unfortunately, we only know that we don't know! We have that 
famous quote from Philip Emmanuel, who told us a story that 
whenever Bach registered his own playing and the organist saw him 
put the stops together they said, "Oh, my God, that couldn't 
possibly sound well." Then he played and they saw that it was 
fabulous. But Philip Emmanuel didn't tell us what he did. We 
have some knowledge, of course, from some of that copies he marked 
a little bit, but not enough. 

Crawford: In Europe do they have what you consider to be a more authentic 

Altman: Yes. We want to be holier than the holy ones in this line, and I 
don't think it works too well. 

Crawford: But you're saying there is a little bit of fashion-consciousness 

Altman: Snobbery. It's already indicated by the way we call the stops. 
Have you ever looked at organ pieces? We use about six 
languages. We should standardize to call the same thing the same 
thing. But we don't do it. 


More About Recitals 

Crawford: What did you program for the recitals? 

Altaian: Well, the novelties were always musically very strong. They were 
not even necessarily obscure works by obscure composers, but 
very often complete cycles like Robert Schumann's Canons for the 
organ. Sometimes organists play the last two, but nobody played 
all six. Beautiful music. Those tidbits I did often for the 
first time. 

Then the suite for the Hohensalzburg, that was a total 
novelty. Then I was asked to discover certain things of 
Mendelssohn which were not published before. 

Crawford: That's interesting. How did you discover those? 

Altman: Well, it was not in that sense a discovery, as if I went to a 
place and there in the oven was a manuscript of Mendelssohn, 
waiting to be discovered. It was not that. We knew of the 
pieces and where they were, but they were not previously edited 
for organ. 

Crawford: How much preparation did you give these recitals? 
Altman: A lot, because I wanted to play well. 
Crawford: This was important for you? 

Altman: Yes, because organ concerts usually are not reviewed. But my 
concerts were always reviewed. 

I was the only local organist whose concerts were regularly 
attended and reviewed by the critics; I assume not for my sake 
but for their programming interest. 

Crawford: It had to do with your playing, too; I think you are too modest. 

Altman: There are many, many organists who play better than I, and I know 
that. But at that time, of course, I probably was much better 
than now. 

Crawford: In Mr. Zellerbach's letter, he said there were sixteen hundred 
people on one occasion. 

Altman: Yes when we gave The Art f the Fugue. It was the biggest crowd 
I ever saw at the Temple, and the biggest success. 

Crawford: About how many does the Temple seat? 




played by 

(Donation from the Music Performance Trust fund of the 
American Federation of Musicians) 




Moderately fast Lively 
Very slowly Phantasy, freely Quietly moving 


With quiet motion 

Chorale : Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow 

1953: Autographed by Yehudi Menuhin. 


Al ttnan: 

About two thousand. 

Crawford: You almost had a full house. 

Altman: But for the High Holy Days they had additional chairs. 

I could never see my way to give a concert when I couldn't 
make a definite cultural contribution. The word "contribution" 
looms very highly in my repertoire of words. I never went for 
what they always write the big new things a program had to 
offer something very specific. Only then would I take it to the 
critics, and that was it. It worked very well. 



Crawford: Our time is nearly finished. You wanted to add some thoughts 
here. [Mr. Altman wrote the following additions.] 

Altman: May no reader get the wrong impression that this chapter intends 
to demote persons [by mentioning them] here rather than in the 
first section, when I was guided by my dedicated, interested and 
interesting interviewers, Elly Glaser and Caroline Crawford, 
whose fine work I deeply appreciate. As one ponders the past, 
persons and events come up, one bringing up another, and one must 
be careful not to drown in a flood of nostalgia and trivia. In 
retrospect, one's past looks often better than it deserves. 

My memory goes back to 1941, when I approached Dr. Hans 
Leschke, conductor of the San Francisco Municipal Chorus. Dr. 
Leschke in the 1920s conducted the opera chorus of the City Opera 
in Berlin, and he came to San Francisco on tour. His great 
ability impressed the then symphony conductor, Alfred Hertz, so 
deeply that Hertz created the municipal chorus. This chorus of 
musical amateurs performed with the symphony orchestra the great 
choral literature led by Dr. Leschke. This project was immensely 
successful. Dr. Leschke liked my playing and made me the 
accompanist and organist. 

My first job with the chorus was playing the organ in 
Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at Stern Grove in 1941. This was a 
great challenge to me because frequently the chorus would have no 
orchestra, and I had to play the entire score on the organ, 
assisted only by two pianists in the sections where the scoring 
was impossible organistically. I performed the great Passions of 
Bach, his Christmas Oratorio and the B minor Mass; Handel's 
Messiah, Honegger's King David, the Requiem of Mozart, the F 
minor Mass of Bruckner. All this Dr. Leschke conducted 
beautifully and fastidiously, so the reviews were unvaryingly 

The Leschke home became a center of musical-social life, 
with many parties and famous musicians dropping in, especially at 
the Christmas season. I recollect seeing Astrid Varnay and 


Altman: Friedelinde Wagner, the granddaughter of Richard Wagner there. 

By the way, she was the only member of the Bayreuth clan who was 
not a Nazi but left Germany. She told us a funny story about how 
she stayed at a hotel on Market Street and phoned once to ask if 
there were any messages for her. The clerk thought that there 
were none, but evidently took no great interest. So Friedelinde 
to impress him told him that she was no less than the grand 
daughter of Richard Wagner. The clerk said he would look 
once more. After a few minutes he returned, regretfully stating 
that there was no Richard Wagner registered at his hotel, 
assuming that Wagner was otherwise hale and hearty. 

Dr. Leschke died in June, 1973. During his last years 
Winifred Baker, a product of English musical education, had taken 
over as conductor of the municipal chorus on an interim basis. 
After Dr. Leschke 's death, she became the permanent leader, 
renaming the ensemble the Civic Chorale. Miss Baker was well- 
equipped, as she had vast experience as a conductor of choruses 
of all sizes and styles. While Dr. Leschke grew up with the 
Germanic B's (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruckner), under 
Winifred the Chorale switched to English music, from the glorious 
madrigal school to William Walton and Benjamin Brittan. 

She took and takes special interest in living composers, and 
this writer has every reason to thank her publicly and in writing 
for the interest she has shown in my choral works and for the many 
occasions [on which] she has included them in her programs 
locally and in the English cathedrals. All this was made 
possible through the loyalty and cooperation she inspired and 
receives from her various choral groups. 

I hesitate and ponder what to say next, and I am asking the 

Muses to help me out as I switch for a very little time away from 

music to my impressions of social life in the United States as it 
contrasts with that in Germany. 

Let me start by stating how much I, together with most of 
the German-Jewish refugees, was touched and reassured by the 
reception we received in our first contact with Americans in 
their natural habitat. Imagine, Uncle Sam would not let you land 
unless there was someone waiting on the pier, and that could mean 
a wait of hours and hours. Usually it was the person or persons 
who gave you the affidavit. Since mine came from San Francisco, 
I was fortunate indeed that good friends of my grandmother 
sweated it out and took me to their home in New Rochelle for the 
initial nights. Their names were Alfred and Rose Zadig. 

There was so much to learn! Above all, self-control. When 
one meets someone at a party who does not hesitate to tell his 
life's history, how his wife kicked him out, how business was 
lousy, and about his hay fever, et cetera, one makes the 


Altman: mandatory sympathetic face but should never refer to his woes, 

should one meet the person again. Or, if someone should express 
the desire to see you again or would like to know if you would 
visit his town as he would love to hear from you, it would 
probably be a mistake to take him or her up on this. 

Does that sound rather ungrateful? If so, I would be 
disappointed because I just love this mode of social contact. It 
tends to take off the sharp and rough edges of social life. 

In professional and commercial activity, the American is 
hard-driving, extremely ambitious and success-bound, so any 
kindness and helpfulness outside the fight for survival is 
doubly welcome, nay necessary. 

As just one example, take the custom of addressing each 
other the democratic way. My barber is a young Chinese; he 
proudly calls himself Plato. He has no idea who his illustrious 
predecessor was. Me he calls, unceremoniously, Joe. God knows 
where he got the idea, but when I phone for an appointment it 
goes like this: "Hello, this is Joe, may I talk to Plato, 
please?" I love this ease, this good humor, this ready 
acceptance of each other's lifestyle, the tolerance of the other 
guy's opinions. This leads me to the final and ultimate 
question: Would I ever consider returning to Germany on 
any permanent basis? Emmy's and my answer, a resounding NO! 

Have I at any time done anything good for a fellow musician 
beyond the ordinary? One instance comes to mind which hopefully 
will get me into heaven when my time comes. A harpsichordist 
from out of town was to play the entire Wohltempierte Clavier. I 
attended and took with me the score. One of the music critics 
spied this and asked to look on. I could not refuse, although I 
would have preferred to follow the music by myself. The artist, 
usually solid like a rock, had an off day. As wrong notes piled 
up more often than they should have, the critic gave me side 
glances to see if he was hearing right. He was known for his 
loving of a good and generous "schluck" and wanted to be assured 
by me as to the accuracy of his musical judgment. So I sat there 
not moving a muscle in my face, like a stone, and probably saved 
the usually fine performer from a panning. 

How important to have one's priorities in proper order. I 
learned this lesson from Frank Fragale. Frank was the bass- 
clarinetist of the San Francisco Symphony and a composer as well. 
For years he was working on an opera based on the text of one of 
the great Shakespeare plays; I do not remember which one, Romeo 
or Macbeth. Frank let me see the score and I had to admire this 
devotion, his patience at a time when there were no copying 
machines like today, and so much more had to be written by hand. 


Altman: Finally, the long-anticipated day arrived. Frank had coached 
the singers, among them the delightful Margo Blum, who was my 
student once. The opera was conducted by the second trumpet, Mr. 
Murray, whose father was the tuba player. The performance took 
place in a school auditorium in Berkeley, the press came, and 
truly Frank Fragale was king for a day! 

The following day Frank was in seventh heaven, telling me 
that the expense had taken all his life's savings, all of this 
free time, his social life for years, yet that he felt well- 
rewarded as he had realized and fulfilled an ambition, his life's 

An example of the opposite, denying one's life dream, comes 
to mind. When I played for a small funeral service where special 
music was wanted; only the widow and a friend were present. The 
widow was crying bitterly and blaming herself because she had 
denied her late husband his last and only wish, to see his 
homeland, Austria, just once again and now it was too late. 

To mention some of the high points of my musical life, I 
would easily remember the first performance locally of Poulenc's 
Organ Concerto in G minor, which I played at the large Austin 
organ in the Civic Auditorium with Mr. Arthur Fiedler conducting. 
This was sponsored by the San Francisco Art Commission; the 
secretaries were invariably helpful to me. Thank you Joe Dyer 
and Martin Snipper. 

The most meaningful music I made was without doubt my 
learning and playing Arnold Schoenberg's Variations on 
Recitative, opus 40, first played at Temple Emanu-El, then at 
U.C. Berkeley, and even in Europe. My performance for an organ 
festival in Magadino on Lago Maggiore was taped. 

One other splendid organ-orchestra work comes to mind: 
Alfredo Casella's Concerto Romano , which I did for the Art 
Commission with the Pops under Mr. Fiedler, who invited me to 
Boston where I did it with the Boston Pops and once more at a 
national convention of the A.G.O. [American Guild of Organists] 
at Temple Emanu-El. Then I played the entire organ music of 
Roger Sessions, including the Mass for Unison Chorus and Organ, 
with Sessions present. 

By far the greatest impact was made, I believe, by my 
putting on for the first time Bach's monumental Die Kunst der 
Fuge [The Art oj? the Fugue with a chamber orchestra, cembalo, and 
organ], conducted by Jan Popper [in 1949 at Temple Emanu-El]. 
This was followed by doing the Musikalisches Opfer [Musical 
Offering] of Bach, conducted by Gastone Usigli. 


Altman: Most people speak the truth, but only a few the whole truth to 
which category do I belong? Other musical experiences which 
stand out above all others? Quite a few. Bruno Walter as guest 
conductor with the San Francisco Symphony, conducting Mahler's 
Second Symphony and the Requiem of Brahms. It brought back 
so many memories of the subscription series in Berlin's 
Philharmonic Hall, the Sunday morning final rehearsals and the 
concerts on Monday evening; my running up to the front as soon as 
the doors opened to get to the standing room on the left side 
where one had a good look at conductor and orchestra. 

And now here in San Francisco I had the much greater thrill 
of being on stage with Walter, playing under the direction of the 
idol of my youth. On another program Walter did excerpts of 
Handel's Messiah. He did it the old-fashioned way, using the 
continue part for special effects. He went to the trouble of 
writing twelve pages in his own hand, and asking me to stay after 
the orchestra rehearsal, seating himself next to me on the organ 
bench and expressing his delight in working with a congenial 

These were some of the highest high points of my musical 
life. I see my readers yawn by now, meaning it is highest time 
to stop. 


You are cordially invited 

to attend a 
Special Sabbath Service 

in honor of 
Ludwig Altman 

to celebrate 

the completion of the 

Ludwig Altman 

Oral History 

and his 
80th birthday 


the twenty-fifth of August 

Ten-thirty o'clock 

in the morning 

in the Sanctuary 

A Kiddush will follow 

The Northern California Jewish Bulletin 

August 10, 1990 





Welcome and Presentation Mortimer Fleishhacker 

Congregation Emanu-El 

Presentation of Oral History Norman Coliver 

Past President 
Western Jewish History Center 

Remarks Cantor Joseph Portnoy 

Response Ludwig Altman 

Benediction Tribute .. . Rabbi Robert Kirschner 



Marian Levy, Chair 

Michelle Ackerman 

Inge Berliner 
Norman Coliver 
Lynn Fertman 
Helen e Feingold 
Patsy Greenstein 
Saul Greenstein 
Joan Jacobs 
Raymond Marks 
Judy Miller 
Louise Oser 
Cantor Joseph Portnoy 
Ruth Portnoy 
Sylvia Reback 
Dr. Ernest S. Rogers 
Nadine Rushakoff 

John Samter 

Marvin Schoenberg 

James Schwabacher, Jr. 

Daniel E. Stone 

Helen Tivol 

Rabbi Robert Kirschner 
Irwin Wiener 
Ha Cherney 


TAPE GUIDE -- Ludwig Altman 
Part I : Altman and Glaser 

Interview 1: February 26, 1988 

tape 1, side A 

tape 1, side B 

tape 2, side B 

Interview 2: April 11, 1988 
tape 3, side A 
insert from tape 5, side A 
tape 3, side B 
tape 4, side A unrecorded 

Interview 3: April 21, 1988 
tape 5, side A 
tape 5, side B 
insert from tape 4, side B 
tape 6, side A 
tape 6, side B 

Part II: Altman and Crawford 

Interview 1: March 3, 1988 

tape 7, side A 

tape 7, side B 

tape 8, side A 

Interview 2: March 29, 1988 
tape 9, side A 
tape 9, side B 

Interview 3: April 27, 1988 
tape 10, side A 
tape 10, side B 
tape 11, side A 
tape 11, side B 

Interview 4: May 9, 1988 
tape 12, side A 
tape 12, side B 
tape 13 , side A 
tape 13, side B 










INDEX Ludwig Altman 


Adler, Kurt Herbert, 94 
Allan, Professor Warren, 105 
Altman, Emmy, 32, 47, 48, 49-50, 


Altman, Ludwig 

compositions, 26-27, 127, 165 
education, 6-8, 20, 71-76, 82- 


accompanist, 11, 12 
Berlin Philharmonic, 9-10, 89 
music critic, 14, 15-16, 93 
organist, 17, 86-69, 102, 


living arrangements, 8-9, 18 

early life, 1, 4-5, 21-22, 30, 

music, 26-27, 71-76, 78-81, 

83, 85 

World War I, 2, 30 
Chicago, 36-37, 102 
decision to emigrate, 31-33, 96 
New York, 34-36, 39, 98, 99 
parents, Eugen and Margot, 1, 2, 

21-23, 24-27, 47 
relatives, 1, 2, 6, 18, 22-23, 
25, 27-28, 33, 35, 38, 40, 46, 
47, 76, 77 

San Francisco, 38-46 
sister, Vera Altman Levi, 2, 46- 


U.S. Army, 51-56 
American Federation of Musicians, 
113, 132 

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 125, 176 
Art of the Fugue, 81, 114, 116, 

173, 177 " 

Baker, Winifred, 180 
Beethoven, Ludwig von, 126 
Ben-Haim, 164 

Bernstein, Leonard, 149 

Binder, Abraham, 98 

Blinder, Naoum, 139, 143, 154 

Bloch, Ernest, 102, 160-162 

Blume, Friedrich, 83 

Brico, Antonia, 106 

British Broadcasting Company (BBC), 

Busch, Fritz, 85 

Carmel Bach Festival, 115-118 
Central Verein Zeitung, 90-91 
Chaliapin, Feodor, 8U 
Commanday, Robert 113 
Congregation, Beth Israel, 41-42 
Conservative temples, 157 

De Vol, Luana, 158 
Dobrowen, Issay, 130 
Dragon, Carmen, 119 
Dupre, Marcel, 123, 141 

English lessons, 90, 99-100 
Einstein, Alfred, 16-17 
Epstein, Dr. Peter, 80 

Fiedler, Arthur, 118-120, 139, 182 
Fine, Rabbi Alvin I., 66 
Fleisher, Leon, 109-110 
Fragale, Frank, 181 
Frankenstein, Alfred, 143, 161 
Fried, Alexander, 115 
Fromm, Herbert, 166 
Furtwangler, Wilhelm, 84, 85 

Gatz, Professor Felix, 9-10 
German consul of San Francisco, 




Jewish musicians, 16 

musical life in, 96 

Nazi regime, 16-20, 44, 72, 74, 
84, 85-87, 89, 91-93, 94, 96, 
100, 145, 153 

performance in, 123-125 

radio, 11-13, 74, 124 

role of music critic, 14-15 

school system, 28-30 
Goethe Institute, 172 

Haug, Julius, 134-135 

Hertz, Alfred, 107-109, 130, 132 

Hertz, Lilly, 107-109, 130, 179 

Hindemith, Paul, 85-86 

Hodge, Leslie, 108 

Hubermann, Bronislav, 86 

Jacobi, Frederick, 161 
Jorda, Enrique, 140-143 

Kastner, Erich, 72 
Kleiber, Erich, 85 
Kohn, Karl, 167 
Kohs, Ellis, 166 
Koshland, Mrs. Marcus, 63 
Kreisler, Fritz, 86 
Krips, Josef, 144-146 
Kulturbund, 90-93 

Lavry, Marc, 168 
Legion of Honor, 120 
Lert, Richard, 117 
Leschke, Hans, 179 
Levy, Pauline, 40 
Linslay, Ralph, 118 

Mann, Thomas, 58-60, 74-75 
Mendelssohn, Felix, 126, 177 
Milhaud, Darius, 148, 156, 162- 


Mitropulos, Dimitri, 138-139 
Monteux, Doris, 135 

Monteux, Pierre, 110, 129-131, 134- 

137, 141-142, 144 
Mozart, Wolfgang, 125-126 
music for mechanical organ-clocks, 


Neue Synagoge of Berlin, 89, 102 

Nick, Dr. Edmund, 71-74 

Ninth Church of Christian Science, 

Noonan, Stanley, 155 

Organs, 175, 176 

Austin, 118 

Cavaille-Col, 145 

E.M. Skinner, 120 

Festival Hall, London, 122 

Hammond, 106, 129 

San Francisco War Memorial Opera 

House, 138 

Orthodox temples, 157 
Ozawa, Seiji, 145-148, 166 

Pfitzner, Hans, 84 

Piatagorsky, Gregor, 75 

Pidoux, Pierre, 121 

Popper, Jan, 116 

Portnoy, Cantor Joseph, 165-166 

Pozniak, Bronislaw von, 75-76, 78- 

79, 83, 85 
propaganda leaflets, 57-58 

Reform temples, 157 

Reichert, Rabbi Irving F., 63, 65, 

Rinder, Cantor Reuben R., 39, 60, 

61-62, 112-113, 153-156, 162-164, 

167-170, 174 
Rodzinski, Artur, 150 

Sabin, Wallace, 37-40, 60-61, 112, 


Salgo, Priscilla, 117 
Salgo, Sandor, 117-118 


San Bruno Avenue Settlement House, 

40, 104 

San Francisco Art Commission, 118 
San Francisco Municipal Chorus, 179 
San Francisco Symphony, 131-149 
Schering, Arnold, 83 
Schmitz, Dr. Arnold, 79 
Schoenberg, Arnold, 144 
Schuster, Josef, 85 
Schwabacher, James, 118 
Second Church of Christ, Scientist, 

Berkeley, 43, 44 
Secour, Michael, 170-171 
Seiffert, Max, 82 
Sessions, Roger, 124, 182 
Sheinfeld, David, 142, 167-168 
Shifrin, Seymour, 166 
Singer, Kurt, 90 
Skinner, Ernest, 174 
Sloss, Mrs. M.C., 38, 63, 64 
Stanford University, 105 
Strauss, Richard, 84 
Sullivan, Noel, 118 
Szell, George, 143 

Wagner, Josef, 78 
Wagner, Richard, 77-78 

Die Meistersinger, 77 

Das Judentum in der Musik, 77 

Parsifal, 130 
Waldrop, Uda, 120 
Wayne, Allan, 100, 102 
Wiener, Grace, 40-41, 104 
Wise, Rabbi Stephen, 99 
Wolf, Johannes, 83 
Works Progress Administration 

Orchestra, 106, 129-130 

Zadig, Alfred and Rose, 98, 180 

Temple Emanu-El, 38, 39, 60-67, 


annual recitals, 172-173 

choir, 156 

commissioned works, 160-164, 

music in, 152, 157, 165-178 

remodeling, 173-175 

soloists, 158 
Toscanini, Arturo, 86 

University of California, 114-115 
Usigli, Gastone, 116 

Vogel, Herr, 88 

Eleanor K. Glaser 

Raised and educated in the Middle West. During World 
War II, spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps Women's 

Senior year of college was taken in New Zealand, consequently 
A.B. degree in sociology from University of Michigan was 
granted in absentia. Study in New Zealand was followed by a 
year in Sydney, Australia, working for Caltex Oil Company. 

Work experience includes such non-profit organizations as 
Community Service Society, New York City; National Society 
for Crippled Children and Adults and National Congress of 
Parents and Teachers in Chicago. 

After moving to California in 1966, joined the staff of a 
local weekly newspaper, did volunteer publicity for the 
Judah Magnes Museum and the Moraga Historical Society, and 
was the Bay Area correspondent for a national weekly newspaper. 
Also served as a history decent for the Oakland Museum. 

Additional travel includes Great Britain, Europe, Israel, 
Mexico, and the Far East. 

Caroline Cooley Crawford 

Born and raised in La Canada, California. 

Graduated from Stanford University, B.A. in political science, 
Post-graduate work at University of Geneva, 
certificate in international law. Degree in keyboard 
performance from Royal College of Musicians, London. 

Copy editor for Saturday Review Magazine. 1973-1974. 

Staff writer and press officer for San Francisco Opera, 1974- 

Co-Director for Peace Corps (Eastern Caribbean), 1980-1983. 

Music reviewer for Peninsula Times Tribune and Bay City News . 

Interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral History Office, 1985- 
present .